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Best Place to Study Jaynes's OC Topics in A Grad Program?

Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 3:54 pm
by pigeonsailor

I'm interested pursuing a graduate degree in Consciousness Studies; and I'm particularly interested in exploring and continuing the work of Julian Jaynes and Alan Watts (I wonder if they ever knew each other....)

I don't know whether it's better to go the Cognitive Sciences route or the Consciousness Studies route.

Right now I'm leaning toward Saybrook Institute, as 1) it seems very flexible, 2) it has a focus on the work of Alan Watts, and 3) i'm a very independent learner.

But I really need some good advice on this topic. I've been out of academia for more than a decade now and need some good solid advice. I'm worried about going into lots of debt for a degree that will never earn me any money (ideally, I'm interested in doing research and writing on the topics of consciousness/language/alter states/metaphysics). I'd be open to teaching though, and also open to doing counseling/therapy, but research and writing are definitely what I really want to do.

I'd really appreciate any insight anyone has to offer.



Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2007 7:10 pm
by Moderator
This is a great (and difficult) question and one that has come up before. I'll get the discussion started but I hope others will join in. Ultimately, everyone is likely to have a different opinion because this is such a subjective issue.

First off, I want to state as an aside that I don't know if most scholars would agree that there is a great deal of overlap between the theories of Jaynes and Watts. The greatest similarity might be that they are both outside of mainstream psychology. However, that is not the main point of your question.

Pursuing a graduate degree in psychology (let alone the subsequent career) when you are interested in non-mainstream theories is very difficult. I think you are on the right track with places like Saybrook, and there are others such as JFK University in Orinda, CA.

I've thought a bit about this issue myself in the past and it seems as though there are primarily three ways you can go:

1. If you ultimately want to teach at a major university/have a mainstream career in academia following getting your Ph.D., I would recommend buckling down and getting a degree from a more traditional university, and gearing your dissertation as much as you can to your interests while still staying within the mainstream. Play down your non-mainstream interests (I wouldn't mention them at all in your letters of intent).

Once you have your Ph.D. you can try to get a position at a department that has an emphasis on consciousness and the mind or is somehow affiliated with a center for the study of consciousness, such as the University of Arizona, U.C. Santa Barbara, U.C. San Diego, and there are others. You could then do research that, while still in the mainstream, is related to your non-mainstream interests. For example, one could study the relationship of language and consciousness, or, if more interested in neuroscience, brain laterality and hemispheric differences, or the neuroimaging of schizophrenic hallucinations, etc. The further you get in your career, the more you'll be able to study whatever you want. However, you have to keep in mind that most research is funded by grant support, and grant support typically goes to areas that are seen as practical and productive (for example, you might be able to get funding to study the decline in consciousness in Alzheimer's, etc.).

2. The other option would be to go the non-conventional route and get your degree from somewhere like Saybrook which you mentioned, or other similar private universities such as JFK University in Orinda, CA. If you pursue this route, you will have a tougher time getting a position at a major university afterward. You could try to get a position at some more metaphysical type place such as the Institute for Noetic Sciences, etc. However, I think it would be hard to base a career decision on places like that, as they are few and far between and might simply not have an available position for years.

So I would think you would need some type of alternate plan, such as doing counseling if your degree was in clinical psychology, to supplement (or in place of) your income from non-mainstream research. Keep in mind it is very difficult (but not impossible) to get grants to do non-mainstream psychology research.

3. The third choice might be to forego your Ph.D. altogether and just develop a career in writing on any topic you enjoy, since you mention writing is really what you want to focus on over teaching or counseling. Of course pursuing a career in science writing is also difficult! And, if you really want to do research you will probably need your doctorate.

Ultimately I think option #1 is a much safer route, unless you have a second income from a spouse, etc. to rely on. The question is can you get through a mainstream program or will it be too boring for you? Not to mention making a decent living even in mainstream academia is not always easy and you often have to give up a lot of control with regards to things like where you live, etc.

grad school advice

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 8:24 pm
by pigeonsailor
Wow. Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. You mentioned JFK in addition to Saybrook. What about CIIS? I'm in the Bay Area; John Limber recommended I look at the UC Berkeley Linguistics grad school programs.

Any others with advice?

Oh, as for Watts and Jaynes; I do think there are similarities -- in Watts's lectures in particular. Anyway, thanks so much for the advice. Keep it coming!

Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 11:10 pm
by Moderator
Yes I've heard of CIIS (California Institute of Integral Studies) and I remember there was another psychology school near Stanford University call PGSP (Pacific Graduate School of Psychology). I don't know much about them however (other than they are expensive!).

Have you considered CSPP (California School of Professional Psychology)? I have a friend who graduated from there that now has a successful career as a therapist as well as doing some instruction, workshops, etc. I would imagine the research aspect of your interests will be the most ambiguous part as far as job opportunities coming out of a non-mainstream university.

Another idea that occurred to me....

I'd speak to some of the professors at each school and try to get some honest answers as to what type of careers will be available to you upon graduation, specifically with regard to your interests in research and type of research you'd like to be involved in. The admissions office might also be able to provide some insights into the career paths of their graduates. Because they are private schools I think they will be much more highly motivated to speak to you on these topics than a large university that is flooded with applications.

Please check back in with an update on what you learn and what you decide.

Non Traditional college studies...

Posted: Tue Jul 24, 2007 5:02 am
by Mspuffspot
I graduated with a Masters in Liberal Studies with a concentration in States of Consciousness (mainly dream studies) from the State University of New York Empire State College. I am unable to obtain employment that allows me to utilize my degree though. I was hoped to teach at the college level, but alas where I live nepotism reigns supreme. I live in a small town. I took a WebCT course in hopes that someone would hire me to teach an online course, but that does not seem to be happening. Get the degree in Psychology, then do your own thing.

narrowing it down

Posted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 2:07 pm
by pigeonsailor
Well, I happily live in San Francisco, which is sort of a hotbed of all things alternative. I do think I'm going to go the riskier route, getting my degree from a non-mainstream school in a non-mainstream subject. Yes it will be harder, but I think I would be far too frustrated having to study stuff that I'm not particularly interested in. I'll keep you posted. any other comments are extremely welcomed! :shock: