Richard Harvey - Psychotherapist, Author and Spiritual Teacher

Richard Harvey

connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
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Interview on the Future of Psychotherapy and Spirituality in the Present Era

Richard Harvey answers questions about the future of psychotherapy and spirituality in the present era.

Are you critical of the world of psychotherapy?

Yes, I am. The developments of the last twenty to thirty years have been woeful and the result is that we do not have the quality of practice and practitioners that we need or deserve.

What’s wrong with psychotherapists today?

Let me say first of all that there are many excellent practitioners in the field. But in general the problem with practitioners today are, first, that they haven’t understood the very basic issue that as a therapist you must want to put yourself out of a job. You must work with your clients toward balance and wholeness and bring them into the present whenever you can, so that they don’t need you anymore. This is vital. But the impulse to help becomes converted into the identification with yourself as healer and when this happens everyone is lost, because there are no healers, in the strict sense of the word, only healing. Your inner emptiness enables healing to come through you.

The second thing is that so much psychotherapy and psychotherapy training suffers from a short-sighted approach and meets the client’s desire to feel better. People need to understand that feeling better is a very small amount of the total capacity of the therapeutic inner journey. If we convey a new paradigm of personal health and well-being that includes the universal requirement to fulfill the personal inner journey, to find out who you are as a common practice, something that everybody does, and remove the stigma of the therapy label that attracts the judgment and pity of others who assume a superior position, then we can begin to embrace life as an adventure in the inner and outer worlds, an adventure that draws us back into innate wisdom, authenticity, creativity and finally real spirituality.

What do you mean by “real” spirituality?

Spirituality today has become largely identified with sentiment, displays of affection and care, political sensibility, and most of all personal travail. The need to be liberated from our personal limitations is not the same as spiritual liberation. But the two have become so mixed up in the modern world that the truth of transcendence and the divine is likely to be lost altogether.

Therefore, although it’s not a popular stance and you may lose friends doing it, you have to speak up in the face of blatant nonsense and subtle, surreptitious manipulations of truth through popularization, commercialization and superficiality and declare that authentic spiritual truth is being eclipsed by emotional, personal, exalted experiences and sentimental notions.

Real spirituality is in you. It is the truth. It is found through courageous and powerful application of your heart and soul to the life of the spirit, to the great discovery of divinity inside yourself. That truth transforms everything. It is not sentimental, egoistic, imbalanced, questionable, or open to dispute. It is the reality of the Absolute within you and pervading all things. This world is a fleeting, changing world of temporary, adapting forms, arising and subsiding, being born and dying, climaxing and subsiding. The best you can say of it is that it is a reflection of the truth and as you grow in spiritual awareness you enter into Consciousness (or God, or the Divine) and manifest it here in the relative world of time and space and the world transforms before your eyes.

That’s incredible. You seem to be able to speak of things most of us find hard to even think about. What is the essence of your work?

To liberate, to transcend and to reveal that the world of appearances is not the real world.

How do personality and character fit into this?

They don’t, but then again personality and character are not permanent fixtures, you see? They are not the truth, just changing phenomena.

Don’t you have to find that out for yourself?

Yes, in the cultural West ego forces have become so strong, we always think that we have to do it for ourselves, because we have lost any fundamental sense of trust. We think everything is taking us for a ride! That’s the personal issue here. The deeper spiritual issue is that we have also lost the ability to surrender or respond and that’s a spiritual tragedy.

In the eastern mindset, for example, the possibility remains to this day that the spiritual teacher, the guru, turns up and states a couple of fairly simple statements and that’s that; you do it and everything’s transformed! You just don’t get that kind of trust from the western mind and you never did. It is cultural. In the west we have got to do it for ourselves, got to test it when we’ve found it out; we have to put our hand in the wound.

What makes your psycho-spiritual approach different from the mainstream, and effective?

I don’t know. I care and I enter into your experience. I resonate with you. I find something in me that’s like what you’re talking to me about. I don’t react; I respond. I empathize. I am present. I am there. I am not distracted. I am responsive. I laugh. I am natural, I don’t try to impress. I don’t need to force or make anything happen. I am no longer seeking the outcome, the healing, the result. I meet you. I am together with you. I don’t shy away from pain; neither do I gravitate toward it. I listen. I hear. I am aware. I do not obstruct the natural process of healing. I do not fear you. I don’t need you to have a problem.

In my training too these are the kinds of qualities I encourage students and practitioners to find in themselves and when they have found them to practice and cultivate them.

What’s the future for psychotherapy and spirituality?

I hope for two main outcomes. One, the acceptance of human awakening as a fact and a commonplace occurrence for the human race. Everyone should have the opportunity to awake to their true self, to lead an authentic life of joy and love and to practice spiritually to transcend the small self and live a life of devotion to the divine. Two, the de-professionalizing of counseling and psychotherapy, so that people can re-own and embrace the activities of caring, listening, wise guidance and mentoring. This is crucial. Along with many of the ills of the last one to two hundred years has been the growth of professionalization and commerce, basically status and greed. Developing urbanization, commercialism, industrialization, the growth of mass media and information technology has taken more from us than we realize—almost everything.

Music, for example, used to be an activity you were involved in; you danced, you sang, you played an instrument, you participated. Now we treat music like TV and pay to go to a stadium to watch our favorite celebrity artist play, while we sit there listening a vast distance away. That’s crap, but it’s hard for us to see now, after the slow deterioration of the human spirit that has taken place during our lifetime, what is really wrong with it. Counseling skills, which are merely natural human abilities to heal, music, medicine, leisure, health, creativity, art, drama, celebration, eating, drinking and home life—everything!—need to be brought back to us, to the hearth, to the heart of the community where people can feel them again. Not just pay to have it, but participate in bringing it about.

There is a poverty of spirit today that is beyond the awareness of most people by far and the great tragedy is that if this persists we could lose the life of the spirit forever. It will move into the realms of fantasy and legend, where it is largely already.

To return the healing, therapeutic skills and validate them in people we desperately need intelligent, quality training and deep understanding from students and practitioners of healing and therapy professions—people who are willing to see further than personal gain and status, and the approval of society.

What happened? How was the natural ability to heal, psychotherapy, medicine, health etc. taken away from ordinary people?

The extraordinarily dedicated violent persecution of women as witches, healers and herbalists over hundreds of years is preeminent in the suppression. This systematic genocide, outrageously perpetrated in the name of religion, can possibly bear comparison with the Jewish Holocaust. The highly complex societal, religious and economic forces are a study in themselves, but in summary I think we can see with certainty that the outcome for humanity of the declining quality of inner life through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has been to progressively disempower people in a myriad of ways.

Do you think we should return to the golden era?

You can never return to any era. The time is now. And no, I don’t encourage sentiment and idealization about the good old days. I am mostly concerned with the inner life of the spirit, the life journey inherent in a human life, the flowering of the individual soul and Self-realization.

What changes do we need in contemporary society to bring this about?

A truly spiritual revolution, an upheaval in consciousness of collective humanity, human beings ascending into the heart chakra, heart energy becoming the new center of awareness and basis for action. Sociologically, a complete revision of our notion of aging, the understanding that age progresses through developmental stages and that old age yields the role of elder and wise mentor, a deepening general understanding of infancy, early childhood and adolescence which we can then meet profoundly, morally and spiritually with wise mentoring and primary love relationships taken out of the absurd and well-worn mould of the romantic mythology they are stuck in.

Most of all, the understanding, custodianship and recognition of real unengaged inward spiritual, transcendent and divine conditions, respected, honored and given reverence by collective humanity in such a way that we are guided, advised and educated from the highest conscious states that are available to us in our worldly existence.


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