The California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) is a private graduate school founded in 1968 and based in San Francisco, California. It currently operates in three locations just south of the Civic Center district. CIIS has a total of about 1100 students and a faculty of 66.
The Institute consists of two main schools: the School of Professional Psychology, and the School of Consciousness and Transformation (mainly humanities subjects). All programs attempt to combine mainstream academic standards with a spiritual orientation, including influences from a broad spectrum of mystical or esoteric traditions. Although the Institute has no official religion or spiritual path, its historical roots lie among followers of the Bengali sage Sri Aurobindo.
CIIS is an accredited member of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). In 2003, the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program in Clinical Psychology earned the accreditation of the American Psychological Association (APA).
CIIS's mission statement is as follows:
This is elaborated into seven ideals, which affirm that CIIS
CIIS has a total of 19 academic programs, with the School of Professional Psychology offering 4 masters and 1 doctoral program, and the School of Consciousness and Transformation offering 7 masters and 6 doctoral programs. CIIS also offers a bachelors completion program.
This concept is reflected in the writings of Sri Aurobindo regarding "Integral Yoga" (purnayoga). Aurobindo intends to harmonize the paths of karma-, jnana-, and bhakti-yoga as described in the Bhagavad-Gita—roughly speaking, body, mind, and spirit. The word "integral" in this wider sense has recently been adopted by various figures in transpersonal psychology, notably Ken Wilber (who has no connection with CIIS, and has in fact criticized it for not being integral enough). Within this outlook, spiritual or mystical experiences are seen as an important aspect of human existence.
The school symbol is the Sri Yantra, a mandala-like symbol of the Hindu goddess Sri (identified with Lakshmi), whom Hindu tantrists sometimes call the Mother of the Universe. CIIS professor Jim Ryan writes:
Dr. Ulansey goes on to say that between 1968 and 1974, Chaudhuri headed a successor organization--the California Institute of Asian Studies, whose formal institutional status was that of an educational branch of the Cultural Integration Fellowship (an Aurobindo organization founded by Chaudhuri). The Institute became independent of the Cultural Integration Fellowship in 1974, with an eye to attaining regional accreditation. It changed its name from "Asian" to "Integral" Studies at this time, and added "East-West Psychology" as an important new emphasis. Chaudhuri died in 1975, after which his widow, Bina Chaudhuri, joined with Spiegelberg to guide the Institute.
Obadiah Harris served briefly as CIIS's president before going on to head the Philosophical Research Society of Los Angeles, replacing founder Manly Palmer Hall after his death. During the 1990's, under the presidency of Robert McDermott (the author of books on Aurobindo and Rudolf Steiner), CIIS significantly expanded its programs after receiving a Rockefeller grant. Some of the new programs were a success (e.g., "Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness", conceived as a combination of Western esotericism with selected scientific themes such as written about by Brian Swimme, featuring such luminaries as Stanislav Grof), others were not. The result was a period of financial exigency, and a contraction of academic offerings.
Since 1999, the Institute's president has been Joseph Subbiondo, a linguist who was recruited for his background in university administration.
CIIS offers reduced-fee psychotherapy services to the general public in three centers:
Therapy is conducted by advanced graduate students and post-graduate interns, and is offered to individuals, couples, and families. Clients usually present problems with depression, anxiety, relationships, challenging life transitions, grief and loss, trauma and abuse, and personal growth. Therapists are trained in various orientations, including humanistic, psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, somatic, and transpersonal.
CIIS hosts and sponsors a wide range of events aimed at the general public, usually within two categories: special events and workshops. Special Events include travel opportunities, certification programs, concerts, and lectures. Workshops cover a wide range of topics, including yoga, self-discovery and healing, feminism, religious studies, psychology, and spiritually-oriented performance arts. Public Programs also offers courses for "mandatory continuing education" credits for licensed professionals.