Dr. Christopher Peet
Dr. Peet’s book on the Axial Age was just published in summer 2019! Check out “Practicing Transcendence."
I approach psychology as a human science. This means that rather than apply the methods developed in the natural sciences in order to explain human being mechanistically and reductively, I am interested in an understanding of human life that speaks more closely to, and from, experience, while honouring how experience is irreducible to any of its explanations. I draw on methods developed in the humanities, most especially from continental philosophy (phenomenology, existentialism, and hermeneutics), with a historical focus, on the assumption that the center of the human psyche is located, not within us individually, but rather in a deep history that carries us, both collectively and individually. I see these different approaches converging on the theme of spiritual practice, and personally practice centering prayer, as developed by Thomas Keating, as a beautiful discipline of the inner life and a way to deepen meditation on the mystery of God.
When I'm not thinking, reading, writing, or teaching about these things, I spend as much time with my kids Logan and Hannah as I can. Although our favorite family activity is probably reading, we also spend time in our home garden and community garden, we walk our dog Bella in the ravine, we let our cat Hazelpuff in and out of the house a bazillion times and camp and hike when we can in the summer. I also spend a lot of time in the cabin I’ve been building on land outside of the city, happy to escape the press of the city and slow down to hang out in the woods, with animals and trees and the stars. I also have more guilty pleasures than I can or should list, from hanging in the hammock, collecting useless things, reading steampunk or playing D&D, to being able to watch all the current adaptations (whether good, bad, or ugly!) to TV or movie of the Marvel comics I read when I was a kid.
All of my research interests have the commonalty of trying to understand the single overwhelming fact of our current time: that whether we view the current global moment in ecological terms of the climate crisis, in evolutionary terms of the Sixth Extinction event, in political terms of the collapse of modern western civilization, or in any other possible historical terms (economic, social, etc.), we are living through an unprecedented time of upheaval and volatility that challenges us to an equally unprecedented deep and radical spiritual transformation: of our psyches, societies, mythologies, ways of living.
- Technology and culture: modern Western society, and increasingly the globe, has become pervasively shaped at every level by technology in a historically unprecedented manner. What are the effects and consequences of this development in the present on our communities and on our psyche? What hopes and anxieties for our future? How does it impact our belonging to our past and transform our relation to our historical traditions?
- History, tradition, and the future: our globalizing moment is, following Karl Jaspers' notion of "pivotal moments" in world history, undergoing a second "Axial Age". How is our current time repeating, fulfilling, failing, or diverging from the first Axial Age of 800-200 BC, when the 'shape' of world history is seeded and the "world religions" initiated? What lessons are we to learn from that world history to address contemporary challenges? In what ways can our belonging to tradition both root us in the past and enable us to move forward into the future with courage and hope?
- Spirituality and contemplation: at the heart of all myth and religion lies the mystery of human participation in the sacred transcendent, that shapes our spiritual lives and which in Christianity has been explored through the practices and disciplines of the contemplative tradition. How to live in that way today? How to retrieve the spiritual practices of the Christian tradition in our contemporary age? How to engage from this tradition in meaningful dialogue with the other great religions and traditions of the world?
- Ecopsychology: our current historical moment is one of ecological peril. The Anthropocene is the era of the Sixth Extinction, globalization exacerbates climate change, and world population continues to grow, all of which raises acutely the issue of how to live on the Earth and how to be in right relation to the natural world. What truths of wildness have we forgotten? What wisdom of indigenous peoples and from the great world religions and traditions must we recover? How to restore, through and beyond our traditions to which we belong, our deeper belonging to our earthly home?
- PSYC 251 - The Person in Society
- PSYC 327 - Between Science And Fiction: The Intersection of Psychology and Literature
- PSYC 333 - Psychology of Religion
- PSYC 390 - Psychology of Personality
- PSYC 340 - Social Psychology
- PSYC 398 - Contemporary Issues in Psychology
- SOCI 395 - God, Physics and the Human Prospect
- PSYC 420 - History of Psychology
- PHIL 334 - Philosophy of the Sciences
Special topics, courses, or directed studies I teach or have taught:
- Psychology of technology
- Transcendence: inquiry into the extra-ordinary
- Cultural psychology and indigenous psychologies
- The psychology of sacrifice
- Askesis and spiritual exercises
- Spiritual and religious: Contemporary Christian spirituality in context
- Contemporary Christian spirituality: Origins and diversity
- Buddhist meditation and western psychology
- Psychedelics, consciousness, and psychology
Research opportunities for students
There is opportunity, based on the availability of funding, for paid research assistance work for students, working under the supervision of professors. (Note this is usually, but not necessarily or always, done in the summer.)
Recent students and projects I have supervised:
- Alexander Evans in developing an interactive computer simulation “Visualizing the Axial Age”, along with Dr. Andrew Tappenden (Computing Science)
- Amanda Nakano and Max Majaesic in doing interviews and qualitative research on practitioners’ experience of centering prayer
- Erin Prodgers and Katie Middel in quantitative studies with undergraduate students on the effects of centering prayer
- Janki Trivedi and Rachel Lucier in conducting a parapsychological experiment (that, contrary to my expectations, found a significant effect!), “Distant mental intentionality: replicating and revising the intentionality hypothesis”
- Jason Horlings in developing an annotated bibliography on topic “Science and Oilsands Development: Science and Decision-making on Major Projects” as part of multidisciplinary team composed of Dr. John Hiemstra (Politics), Dr. Christopher Peet (Psychology), Dr. Gerda Kits (Economics), Dr. Michael De Moor (Philosophy), & Dr. Theresa Zolner (Psychology)
- Katherine Franke in developing an inventory “Christian spiritual practices in greater Edmonton”
- Marie Bullock on topic “Technology and immanence”
- Jeremy Beile on topic “Theorizing agency, questioning identity”
- Ami Harbin on topic “Excavating Rene Girard” (co-supervised with Dr. Henry Schuurman, professor of Philosophy)
In summer 2020, with two King’s alum, Dawson Strand and Karambir Singh, we created a podcast series “Afterthought”, from out of pandemic & lockdown, reflecting on our current world in crisis. Release date: October 1, 2020! https://anchor.fm/afterthoughtcdk
I gave a public Zoom lecture on Tuesday, May 25, 2020, called “Coronavirus and mental illness: a reflection on the stigmata of the Earth” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bo4cE52cpF4
Here’s a video of a discussion I participated in (as a book critic) at the 2018 American Philosophical Association Annual conference on the Axial Age: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01qgsttbSEo
(My book on the Axial Age was just published in July 2019 so I'm pretty excited!)
Peet, Christopher. (2019). Practicing Transcendence: Axial Age Spiritualities for a World in Crisis. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.
Peet, Christopher. (2018). "Reflections on Axiality: Evolutionary Legacy or Historical Consciousness?," Existenz: Journal of the Karl Jaspers Society, 13/2, 79-86.
Haluza-Delay, R., DeMoor, M., & Peet, C. (2013). That we may live well together in the land…: Place pluralism and just sustainability in Canadian and Environmental Studies. Journal of Canadian Studies, 47 (3), pp. 226-256.
Peet, C. (2012a). Psychology of religion 2013: Historical considerations. Journal of Religious Studies and Theology, 31 (2), pp. 111-127.
Peet, C, (Ed.) (2012b). Special issue: Psychology of religion. Journal of Religious Studies and Theology, 31 (2). (Guest editor for special issue.)
Majaesic, M., & Peet, C. (2018a). The Inner Transformation: Interviewing Centering Prayer Practitioners. Paper presented at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference, held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, April 7, 2018.
Prodgers, E., & Peet, C. (2018b). Effects of Centering Prayer on the Everyday Stress of Undergraduates. Poster presented at the Psychology Undergraduate Research Conference, held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, April 7, 2018.
Peet, C. (2018c). “Author meets critics” Book symposium: On Eugene Halton’s From the Axial Age to the Moral Revolution: John Stuart-Glennie, Karl Jaspers, and a New Understanding of the Idea. American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division, 92nd Annual Meeting, held in San Diego, California, March 28-31, 2018. (Here’s the online video version.)
Peet, C. (2016). Deep stuff: Perennial or incomparable or other? Paper presented at Western Canadian Theoretical Psychology (WCTP) Annual Conference, held in Edmonton, Alberta, Sept. 22-25, 2016.
Peet, C., and Smythe, W. (2015). Iterations & immersions: Continued reflections on depth in culture. Paper presented at Western Canadian Theoretical Psychology (WCTP) Annual Conference, held in Victoria, BC, Sept. 24-27, 2015.
Peet, C. (2015). Psychological depth as a dis-integrative dynamic. Paper presented at Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) Annual Conference, Ottawa, Ontario, June 4-6, 2015.
Chris Peet's full CV.