The Unfolding of Meditation: A Genealogy of "Concentrative vs. Opening-Up Meditation" and the Legacy of Claudio Naranjo's Reformulation of Contemplative Practice for the Transformation of the Self at the Dawn of the New Age

Werner, Blaine Patrick, Religious Studies - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Braun, Erik, AS-Religious Studies, University of Virginia

Recent scholarship in religious studies has called into question the conceptualization of mindfulness and meditation in clinical and psychological research. This paper takes up the reformulation of meditation and the creation of categories of meditation as proposed by Claudio Naranjo, a Chilean-born psychiatrist who visited the United States through the 1960s and early 1970s. Due to an existential crisis brought on by the multiplicity of truth claims in a religiously pluralistic and secular society, Naranjo sought to integrate all religious traditions into one system of psychospiritual development, a vision that can best be described as an experiential monism. For this system, Naranjo posited a typology of meditation that was a bifurcation of "concentrative vs. opening-up," a framework that can be traced from Naranjo's joint publication with Robert Ornstein in 1971, On the Psychology of Meditation, to the present-day, where it appears as focused attention vs. open monitoring. A close analysis of the sources Naranjo utilized for ideas about Buddhist traditions problematizes Naranjo’s thought and demonstrates how it typifies David McMahan’s themes of Buddhist modernism in the North Atlantic: psychologization, detraditionalization, and demythologization. I conclude that not only is Naranjo a critical figure in the New Age movement and its legacy beyond, but that his works reveal a crucial moment in the theorization of meditation to be intimately connected to an emergent secular theology.

MA (Master of Arts)
meditation, focused attention, open monitoring, concentration meditation, opening-up, Claudio Naranjo, New Age, secularism, American spirituality, psychology, Buddhist modernism
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
Issued Date: