connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
The perspective this book takes is a spiritual one. Perhaps more precisely it is a psychospiritual one. But I make no apology for this. Today there are many books on spirituality and psychology; some might say too many! So why write another? Isn’t this just another spiritual book? Spirituality may be passé for some, vibrant and alive for others, either popularized and therefore corrupted, or too profound for description for others. But the truth is that since human beings are in essence spiritual, the deepest and only real effective solutions to the questions besetting modern humanity must include a spiritual perspective. Political, economic, ecological, philosophical, scientific, and religious questions, problems, and solutions are merely partial when they leave out spirituality. Of course, any partial problem can be a way to wholeness and each partial problem can and must be solved, but they can only be wholly effective from the perspective of the whole, otherwise they only address the symptoms of a greater malaise – the malaise that humanity currently faces, which is a crisis of truth, compassion, and authenticity.
The way for us to save ourselves in this crisis is to deepen into the ways of truth and wisdom that reflect an authentic understanding of spirituality during this time of gross ignorance. This ignorance is fostered by the lack of knowing, obviously, but more insidiously it is promoted by the distortion of spiritual wisdom itself. The most efficient way to conceal something is to subsume it, to erase it through continuous misrepresentation. And this is what has happened with spirituality.
In the West, popular enthusiasm for Eastern religion and spiritual philosophy began in the 20th century. By the 1950s and ’60s there was a general awareness of religions and spiritual means other than Christianity. But arguably by the materialistic ‘80s, superficiality had set in. Western seekers who spent time in spiritual communities in the East and received some teaching were touched by the ancient wisdom and sought to share their discoveries. When they returned home some carried the intention to establish spiritual schools with themselves as gurus. With that movement, the dilution and the inherent misinterpretation of ancient teachings was inevitable. Moreover, it became acceptable that even proclaimed Buddhists were unlikely to have read the sutras. In spite of a Shiva figure dancing on the mantelpiece, most would-be Hindus were unlikely to have studied the Vedas.
None of this need matter at all incidentally, since the organization of spirituality may be said to have all but obliterated the sacred truths. Religions for thousands of years offered moral codes that were more or less interchangeable and deviated little according to the faith that was followed. For the majority this was and is all that religion or spirituality is really about. Popular religion or spirituality, as most people come to know it, is essentially a personal, and to some degree collective, matter. The overriding concerns are about personal life, the physical body, and social structures. But there is much more to spirituality than societal morality. Esoteric spirituality, or religion, is, in contrast, a transpersonal matter. Transpersonal means “beyond the personal,” so esoteric spirituality is the spirituality that aims at union with the Divine or True Reality: Oneness, in which the personal is sacrificed to Truth. While popular religion rests on concepts, moral guidance, dogma, and the organization 1 To distinguish between the relative and the absolute sense of words like, for example, Divine, Reality, and Self, I use the uppercase to indicate the absolute. Unlike these words when rendered in the lowercase and therefore indicating the relative, these terms have no opposites. However, too many uppercase words make awkward reading, so I have reduced the uppercase as much as possible. When divine, real, or self are used as an adjective they are always rendered in the lower case. 2 of quasi-spiritual beliefs and myths, in esoteric spirituality there is an ongoing unfolding, a process of deepening devotion to Reality that results in the realization of the Self. In popular religion and spirituality, belief and faith are the foundations of spiritual life, in esoteric spirituality, belief and faith are merely concepts to discard. Popular religion offers salvation through the mental concept of belief in a father-centric deity idea and is principally concerned with morality and social order. The esoteric spiritual approach is inward-seeking, transcending popular beliefs and assumptions in favor of a direct experience of Reality. Esoteric spirituality differentiates arising forms and the world of appearances from what is ultimately true. While popular spirituality or religion offers immediate benefits, assurances, and consolation, esoteric spirituality requires earnest preparation for the practices that comprise the esoteric path. In the past, esoteric content was the exclusive domain of those that set themselves apart from society. Today this is no longer the case and it has turned out to be a mixed blessing. By the 1990s and increasingly through the noughties and into this present decade, awakened individuals were seemingly popping up like proverbial wildflowers. Many of those awakening sought status as mentors, teachers, or masters in the spiritual firmament. However, the mix of egocentric pursuits alongside ostensibly ecstatic teachings of freedom and impersonal spiritual teachings were and are a reflection of humanity’s confusion and the central spiritual dilemma that humanity is currently facing.
As a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist I had been aware of this central dilemma since the 1970s. Aspiring spiritual students made their way to me in order to explore through the medium of transpersonal or psycho-spiritual means the way to the impersonal realms of spiritual experience. But it was in almost all cases a futile aim because they wanted to enter the spiritual realms without first attending to their personal psychology. Wounded and damaged through being raised in a culture of ignorance, anti-life sentiments, and falseness, most every one of them needed to first heal psychologically, mentally, energetically, physically, and above all emotionally.
Our bodies show the signs of holding on to suppressed emotions, of grief and despair, of wounds sustained and denied, of tension that served to repress and contain our true experience and responses. Our emotions themselves are stagnant, held, frozen, and mixed desperately with the mental resistances of justification, ignorance, and defensiveness. When you cannot genuinely feel and be present in your life, when you are unable to engage with the world through your soul senses, and when you cannot maintain a suitable tension in your psycho-physical organism to adapt appropriately to the present conditions of life, you are ungrounded. Your psychological foundation is thus too weak to sustain genuine spiritual endeavor. If you try to run before you can walk, you fall over. Similarly, if you try to enter the spiritual realms before you are prepared and ready, you fail.
So, the confusion that underlies the current central dilemma of humanity concerns the lack of an authentic, robust foundation. If we wish to embark on the spiritual journey, it is vital that we understand the need to build a solid foundation by healing the psyche through psychological exploration. Only then we can prepare ourselves for real spiritual development.
 To distinguish between the relative and the absolute sense of words like, for example, Divine, Reality, and Self, I use the uppercase to indicate the absolute. Unlike these words when rendered in the lowercase and therefore indicating the relative, these terms have no opposites. However, too many uppercase words make awkward reading, so I have reduced the uppercase as much as possible. When divine, real, or self are used as an adjective they are always rendered in the lower case.
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This article was published on this site in October 2023.