Program in Creativity & Consciousness Studies

The U-M Program in Creativity and Consciousness Studies is an initiative devoted to theoretical and applied exploration of the nature and development of human creativity and consciousness. Recent years have seen increasing interest in “peak experiences” or “Flow” states as not only episodes of heightened performance but apertures into expanded conceptions of the human being. Many visionaries consider a revolution in consciousness as key to addressing the growing number of challenges facing our world, a proposition that poses exciting ramifications for the educational leadership of our times. Viewing creativity as the exterior manifestation of consciousness growth, PCCS brings together faculty and students from all areas of campus to engage in coursework, lectures, symposia, and research that is centered around this vision.

September 2018

Dear PCCS community,

I am happy to announce that, following a brief hiatus, PCCS will resume its activities during the 2018-19 academic year. I thought I would take this moment to reflect on new directions to be explored as we look at what lies ahead. While our first official event is on November 5, featuring cognitive neuroscientist Julia Mossbridge presenting on her cutting-edge work in precognition, time and consciousness, I look forward solidifying other plans in the interim period of time.

Diversity is among the first areas that come to mind. With the growing commitment to this area on our campus coinciding with growing relevance of this topic in society, I am particularly interested in continuing our work around the diversity, art, and consciousness relationship. Sustainability is another pressing issue of today’s world that takes on new dimensions when viewed through the lens of the creativity-consciousness perspective. Our relationship with our physical and social environments is directly predicated on our connections with the innermost dimensions of our very being.

I would like to pursue new curricular possibilities, with some conversations having already been initiated about the creation of a minor in creativity and consciousness studies. It is hard to believe that it has been 15 years since the BFA in Jazz and Contemplative Studies degree was instituted in the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance; we are long overdue for a cross-campus counterpart to that innovative program!

Impacting all of these areas and beyond is a goal that has been important since the founding of PCCS—which is to provide a uniquely robust forum on our campus for exploring the most far-reaching questions about the nature of consciousness and human development and their ramifications for education and society at this unique juncture in human history. I find myself increasingly inspired in this regard by work being done at places such as the Institute of Noetic Sciences; Society for Scientific Exploration; International Society for the Study of Human Ideas on Ultimate Reality and Meaning; Society for Consciousness Studies; and within the Integral Theory community. (See the Resources & Links section, below, for a more complete listing.)

This is the idea behind the PCCS New Frontiers in Consciousness Exploration series, of which Dr. Mossbridge’s talk on Nov 5 will be an initial event.

While materialist perspectives still tend to prevail in academic consciousness studies, I believe the time has come for a more expansive vision that harnesses cutting-edge work in the sciences as well as age-old insights from the world’s wisdom traditions to yield a truly integral vision. The question of consciousness is arguably the most fundamental issue of our times, impacting all educational disciplines and every facet of life, and I look forward to continuing our explorations in this domain in the coming year.


Ed Sarath
Professor of Music, U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD), and
Director, Program in Creativity & Consciousness Studies (PCCS)


A wide range of coursework is available on the U-M campus that intersects with the terrain of PCCS. Common to much of this coursework is theoretical inquiry into the interior dimensions of human awareness and applied exploration of this realm through contemplative methodologies such as meditation. A burgeoning contemplative studies movement, which is galvanized by organizations such as the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, suggests that these practices and studies represent the next major wave in higher education. The BFA in Jazz and Contemplative Studies program at U-M, moreover, has been regarded as at the forefront of this new wave in moving from single courses to a full degree program with a significant contemplative studies component. It might be noted that core courses in the curriculum (such as 450 Contemplative Practices Seminar, and 455 Creativity and Consciousness) are open to students from all fields regardless of musical backgrounds. An important aim of PCCS is to design a cross-campus version of the Jazz and Contemplative Studies curriculum that integrates a contemplative component and creativity studies with wide-ranging conventional concentrations.

Contemplative Studies Courses at SMTD

Related Courses from across the University

Note: not every course is offered in each term or for credit in every degree. Check your school’s course guide for more information.

American Culture 262: Native Religious Traditions
Anthro Cultural 416: Global Health: Anthropological Perspectives
Anthro Cultural 448: Anthropology of Religion: Ritual, Sanctity, and Adaptation
Anthro Cultural 449: Metaphor Enacted: Magic, Healing, and Ritual
Asian Lang & Culture 325: Zen Buddhism Immortals, Elixirs and Revelations
Engineering 100: Biotechnology and Human Values (section 2)
German 304: Expressionist Art in Munich
German 304: Freud, Jung, & the Unconscious
German 304: Joseph Beuys
German 309: Imagination
German 386: Fairy Tales
Judaic Studies 470: Models of Jewish Renewal
Judaic Studies 478: Jewish Mysticism
Kinesiology 474: Worksite Wellness
Philosophy 344: Ethics in Health Care
Philosophy 383: Knowledge and Reality
Psychology 231: Brain, Learning, and Memory
Psychology 401: The Psychology of Consciousness
Psychology 418: Psychology and Spiritual Development
Psychology 442: Perception, Science, and Reality
RC SOCSCI 254: Mind and Brain in the Creative Process
RC SOCSCI 360: Perspectives on Creativity and Consciousness
Religion 381: Witchcraft: An Introduction to the Literature and History of Witchcraft
Religion 455: Religion and Society
Religion 465: Islamic Mysticism
Sociology 455: Religion and Society
Sociology 555: Culture and Knowledge
Social Work 734: Complementary, Alternative, and Indigenous Healing Systems
Univ Course 163: Biotechnology and Human Values
Univ Course: Faith and Science

PCCS hosts a variety of events, ranging from team-taught coursework and collaborative research, lectures, and symposia.


PCCS invites faculty and staff from all areas of campus to come together around the following themes, some of which will coalesce in study groups that meet regularly (e.g., once per month) depending on interest. As the descriptions below indicate, while each area represents a unique lens into the creativity-consciousness relationship, there is also considerable overlap between areas due to the common interior foundations, and inner-outer integration, inherent in the PCCS vision. The term “integral” used in some of the headings, informed by an emergent worldview called Integral Theory, denotes this integration. Some themes will be the topic of panel discussions at public events, examples of which can be found in past events link. Suggestions for new themes are always welcome.

Contact PCCS to indicate interest in one or more groups, and for more information.

Art, Consciousness, and Diversity Initiative (ACDI)
The purpose of the ACDI is to bring into the conversation two areas—art and consciousness—that have profound ramifications for diversity, but have not been part of that discourse to nearly the extent that is possible, and arguably needed, if genuine progress is to be made. PCCS also seeks to link this very critical diversity imperative to the increasing arts advocacy and activity on U-M’s campuses. For example, within the field of music studies, we advocate significant conversation about diversity—to probe not only demographics but the ethnocentric core of the knowledge base in that field—allowing for a wider educational experience. Michigan can also play a leadership role in addressing the problem on a broader scale—these challenges are not unique to our campus.

Deep Inquiry Group (DIG)
DIG brings together colleagues who are interested in stepping outside the boundaries of conventional academic discourse and grappling with the biggest questions of human existence, purpose, and creative potential in light of the unique challenges and opportunities at this moment in history. DIG will also explore practical ramifications of this kind of investigation for education and society. Although there is increasing emphasis on innovation in the academic sector, this usually amounts to a horizontal expansion of the prevailing paradigm of how knowledge and learning are construed—which is largely externally-oriented (e.g. ingestion of information). When viewed through the lens of creativity-consciousness development, innovation takes on vertical dimensions, involving interior transformation at the deepest strata of the knowing subject.

Improvisation Across Fields (IAF)
Recent years have seen an increasing interest in the improvisatory core of creativity across fields. The rich cross-disciplinary environment at the University of Michigan provides fertile ground for a sustained and penetrating investigation into this topic. The physician-patient relationship, the teacher-classroom interaction, the public speaker, the corporate think-tank, the team of physicists, the basketball team, the jazz quintet—success in all of these activities depends on the capacity of participants to be fully present, to listen deeply, to generate profound ideas, to attend to both minute detail and overarching patterns within a moment-to-moment flow, to adapt to sudden and often unpredictable developments, and to move seamlessly between background and leadership roles.

Integral Diversity Group (IDG)
IDG expands the diversity conversation to include creativity, the arts, and consciousness as central criteria. This enables the all-important need for current progress in the area of demographic diversity—ensuring inclusion of individuals from different racial, ethnic, cultural and other backgrounds—to be situated in a broader context in which a wide array of contributions by diverse constituencies are honored. Creativity can be seen as the beginning of the new diversity continuum, with cross-cultural and trans-cultural embrace of the arts leading the way. But it is consciousness that truly forges new terrain in the diversity conversation, where the myriad ways individuals and cultures have accessed the transcendent foundations of human awareness underscore the urgent need to celebrate and integrate diverse people and perspectives in the educational enterprise.

“What Is Consciousness?” Group (WICG)
No topic is more elusive yet important than that of defining consciousness. Is consciousness reducible to neurobiological activity, is it epiphenomenal to that activity, or might consciousness be the fundamental ground of creation? Might the “hard-problem” of consciousness—how consciousness emerges from a physical substrate—remain so elusive to solve because it is predicated on the wrong assumptions? What empirical findings are available that support the various views of consciousness? Corresponding theoretical/philosophical frameworks? What are the ramifications of our understanding of consciousness on the educational enterprise, society, and the most pressing challenges of our times?

Past Events

“Expanding the Diversity Conversation: Art, Consciousness, and Social Justice”
Kyra Gaunt and Ed Sarath

“Meditation, Creativity, and Consciousness”
Molly Beauregard, Rita Benn, and Ed Sarath

“Just This, Nothing More: Meditation Practice and the Art of Improvisation”
Mark Miller

“Nature-Based Contemplation, Outdoor Play, and Sustainability”
James Crowfoot, Elizabeth Goodenough, Richard Mann, and Martha Winona Travers

“Diversity, Consciousness, and Contemplative Engagement”
Meilu Ho, Brandon Valentine, and Ed Sarath

“Black Music in the Academy: Moving From the Periphery to the Core in a Global Age”
Kwasi Ampene, Marion Hayden, Ed Sarath, Brendan Asante

“What Is Consciousness? Interdisciplinary Conversations on the Nature of the Human Being, Human Creative Development, and the Cosmos”
Donald Degracia, Sharon Kardia, Richard Mann, Ed Sarath

“Improvisation, Consciousness, and Integral Change: Expanding the Jazz Metaphor”
Ed Sarath

“Brain-Heart: Understanding the Mind-Body Connection”
Dr. Robert H. Schneider, M.D.

PCCS is comprised of a wide range of scholars-practitioners involved in many areas related to creativity and consciousness studies. As the list of Affiliated Faculty indicates, the field connects with virtually every area of campus, and as interest in the interior dimensions that underlie all disciplines grows, we anticipate that faculty and student involvement will expand considerably. While the focus for some colleagues is on innovative pedagogical approaches, for others cutting-edge theoretical and quantitative research, and still others direct exploration of the terrain through creative and contemplative engagement, it is the uniting of all these areas that will define the leadership in this emergent academic field. PCCS is guided by this integrative vision.

Affiliated Faculty
  • Frederick Amrine, Dept. of Germanic Languages & Literatures
  • Robert Anderson, School of Medicine
  • Pamela Andriata, School of Medicine
  • Percy Bates, School of Education
  • Judith Becker, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • Rita Benn, Integrative Medicine / Family Medicine / Institute for Research on Women and Gender
  • Donald Clewell, Dept. of Biology
  • James Cogswell, Stamps School of Art & Design
  • James Crowfoot, Program in the Environment / Michigan Community Scholars Program
  • Aditi Dave, School of Medicine
  • David Doris, Dept. of African American and African Studies
  • Jane Dutton, Ross School of Business
  • Jeffrey Evans, Residential College / School of Medicine
  • William Gehring, Dept. of Psychology
  • Eliott Ginsberg, Dept. of Near Eastern Studies
  • Sara Adlerstein Gonzalez, School of Natural Resources & Environment
  • Elizabeth Goodenough, Residential College
  • Patricia Gurin, Dept. of Psychology
  • Melissa Hall, Dept. of Kinesiology
  • Max Heirich, Dept. of Sociology
  • Carol Hutchins, Athletics Department
  • Sharon Kardia, School of Public Health / Life Sciences and Society
  • John King, Vice Provost for Strategy
  • Patricia King, School of Education
  • Susan King, Life Sciences and Society
  • Andrew Kirschner, Stamps School of Art & Design / School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • Ram Mahalingham, Dept. of Psychology
  • Richard Mann, Dept. of Psychology; and Program on Studies in Religion
  • Maureen Martin, Development Office
  • George Mashour, School of Medicine- Anesthesiology, Neuroscience
  • Marie McCarthy, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • Henry Meares, School of Education
  • David Meyer, Dept. of Psychology
  • Carl Miller, College of Engineering- Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Stephen Modell, School of Public Health
  • Anne Mondro, Stamps School of Art & Design
  • Thylias Moss, Dept. of English Language and Literature
  • Christopher Peterson, Dept. of Psychology
  • Robert Quinn, Ross School of Business
  • Stephen Ragsdale, School of Medicine
  • Beverley Rathcke, Dept. of Biology
  • Stephanie Rowden, Stamps School of Art & Design
  • Edward Sarath, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • Brett Seabury, School of Social Work
  • Susan Shand, Athletics Department
  • Martha Winona Travers, School of Music, Theatre & Dance
  • Karl Weick, Ross School of Business
Cross-Campus Affiliations

Integrating theoretical inquiry with direct experience through meditation and related practices, virtually all conventional disciplines, as well as many emergent themes—including diversity, innovation, multi-disciplinary/trans-disciplinary learning, and sustainability—take on new and expanded meaning. – Ed Sarath