Spiritual Psychology is the process of integrating the body, mind, and spirit. There are six basic elements that are the source for all other aspects within our reality. These elements are Spirituality, Creativity, Psychology, Body Therapy, Culture, and Human Ecology. These elements are all based in Spirituality that is outside of any organized religion. Within all patriarchal systems religion supports the notion that the Church will be the source to God. From this perspective the masses no longer have a direct personal connection to God for truth. This can open a person to be manipulated for the gain of those who tell you what “the” truths are. What you choose to call this source is your choice. This source is not based in our cultural constraints of a particular sex, gender, skin color, or orientation. This direct connection to source allows no one to control another’s destiny. These six elements are the basis of human beings as they relate to: Systems Theory; Self-Transcendent Systems; Open Learning Systems.
Human beings are complex systems that are interconnected with other internal and external aspects. A Spiritual Psychology counselor or teacher must be fully conscious themselves to be able to fully assist others in awakening and healing. To be fully conscious requires one to be fully functional. This requires one to be free of all constraints that they were enculturated with that go against their internal nature. What is required to remain conscious is to be in a constant of state of conscious growth.
The premise of a Spiritual Psychology is that Spirit is in everything. Spirit is based in unconditional love and is supportive of each of us all the time. As Spiritual beings we are all endowed with unlimited creativity which comes through us effortlessly to support ourselves in life. Our bodies house our feelings, which act to guide us through reality and act as a vessel for Spirit. Each person learns differently based on her or his uniqueness. When we learn in our own unique way, we can then access higher levels of intelligence that assist us in understanding the many aspects of our internal and external realities. Understanding that there is no one right culture paves the way for different ways of knowing, learning, and being. Awareness of enculturation allows oneself to shift from an external cultural belief system of being to an internal authentic system of being. Lastly, we are all connected with nature. Our well being and survival are dependent on this living system that surrounds us. Ensuring that we protect and nurture our inner nature guarantees that we will protect and nurture our outer nature.
A key issue that goes unnoticed within psychology is the cultural trance we are all
in. Once we awaken from this trance we can then begin to discover who we really. Too often in any endeavor we look for a finished product. The human being is a work of art in constant progress. I am reminded of a quote that portrays this eloquently. “Perfection isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.” In general, societies are not conducive to change, especially when those changes move a person out of the cultural norms of behavior and beliefs. That is not to say that mainstream therapy has no value. I do believe we are always moving forward in a constant state of change, whether we are aware of this or not. At some point a client becomes confused internally because what they are beginning to feel doesn’t resonate with the therapist. Discrepancies are often dismissed or minimized. Issues can and are often skirted around by a therapist. If a therapist has unresolved issues and a client brings that issue up, the therapist will downplay it to the degree of his/hers discomfort. One of the graces of healing has to do with becoming more aware of when something doesn’t quite feel right or match a person's experience or knowledge. This allows the client to seek out other more qualified therapists or become their own healer. It comes down to knowing when to move on. In my own life I realized that it was time to move on. As I became more aware and knowledgeable I began to notice discrepancies and when they were not addressed, I knew it was time to go. My own exploration included teaching myself through readings and counseling. At some point I realized that I had to take over my own therapy due to a lack of qualified people. I think one of the healthiest things anyone can do is to learn how to trust their own intuition. I have used intuition as a tool to assist me in leading me to those people, places, and things that will best assist my healing. It is through our exploration that we learn to find out what works best for us. My intuition led me to career and life counseling, Aikido, and a body therapy called Rolfing. I started to open up and grow in ways that therapy didn’t even touch. Later I enrolled in college to pursue a degree in psychology.
It was during this time that I began to really see the effects of culture on human beings. My anthropology teacher acknowledged many of the discrepancies I had been feeling. One day in class a realization surfaced about how culture forces people to conform. It was here that it dawned on me that psychologists were often causing harm to others who were trying to wake up. Psychologists are enculturated like everyone else in mainstream culture. Enculturation can effect conscious and unconscious pressure to conform to mainstreamed cultural beliefs. Those seeking counseling are quite often limited or kept from becoming conscious. This occurs with Caucasians, but more so with minorities. This is a major reason why most minorities don't seek counseling with Caucasian psychologists. At this point I all but gave up on being a therapist. Synchronicity intervened and made me aware of Fairhaven College, where I could customize my own degree program. My intuition told me to create my own degree program in spiritual psychology.
Critical thinking is our biggest ally in our waking up process. One of the obstacles to critical thinking in the educational systems is that enculturation forces limitations that limit the effectiveness of critical thinking skills. This occurs with administrators, teachers, and students. Enculturation is a very powerful force to be reckoned with. Moving beyond our own beliefs is difficult enough. Trying to move beyond mainstream culture is a whole other issue. College can be a wonderful place to learn if one has enough awareness to think for themselves. Curiosity, thinking skills, and a healthy does of self-esteem and self-confidence can be allies to overcome any obstacle. I found the classroom experience helpful to find my own answers through dialoguing with student and teachers. This process was invaluable, but only if you engage in the learning process. Many just sit and listen and question nothing. At some point you begin to see the similarities among the various studies such as cultural anthropology, political economy, philosophy, art history, creative arts, sign language, logic, history, astronomy, and even math.
One of the most damaging things that reductionism has done to our thinking to seeing only each individual part. What we need to realize is that parts are part of something much larger. This allows us to see the many different perspectives in any given situation. This is one of the flaws of ego and of the cultural trance, it only allows limited perspectives. Another issue that is missing from critical thinking has to do with thought processes in general. We are led to believe that it is something you do to a point on a given subject. The reality of truth is that it constantly changes and develops as we become more conscious. It is ridiculous to assume this limited idea. The process of learning requires that we take all that we read, discuss, and experience and analyze it through critical thinking. The next step requires that we run it through all our other knowledge, wisdom, and experience and look for discrepancies or connections. Intuition can be an invaluable ally in sifting through all this knowledge to discern half-truths and reintegrate them back into whole truths. I trust my Spirit will lead me to sources of information that I need to know to find these truths.
We know that intuition works. Studies have confirmed that it is a right hemisphere operation, the right brain, where science has labeled it "the irrational or non-rational mind. There is a cultural stigma attached to the right brain of inferiority versus the superior intellect of the left brain. In recent decades research is shedding light on the consistency of the validity of the right brain. The answers people access through the right brain are quite often correct. This process is often more connected to higher truths that are often over-ruled by our intellectual brain; ego. No one in science can explain how this intuition works, but it works. We know without knowing how we know. In my own process I allow my intuition to lead me. I think that curiosity and intuition are closely related and complimentary. I am drawn to something and I explore it. In exploring this person, place, or thing I come away with an understanding. I usually find out afterwards that what I was curious about was This direct experience to learning is superior to book learning. Say for example, I am interested in understanding what course work will create my degree in Spiritual Psychology. I explore what classes are available. I find what it is that I am drawn to. Sometimes it is an interest of mine, other times it is some intuitive feeling that I know I must follow. The classes always fit in some way, offering me perspectives I wouldn’t have thought about prior to the class. This has happened throughout my education at Fairhaven. As I look back on my life I can see that all things played their part in creating who I am now and getting me to this point. I have faith in this process and I am never misled. I remember being asked at the start of my Fairhaven College concentration seminar to come up with questions for what I wanted to learn. This went totally against what I had been nurturing all along. I am reminded of something a counselor said to me, “the kinds of questions you ask will determine the answers you get.” If I ask questions then those questions become my guide as to where I am going to go. However, in listening to what feels right, I am led by Spirit. Spirit transcends ego, it is not limited by cultural beliefs and limitations. To become whole I must trust my Spirit to guide me beyond the limits. This concept works by choosing classes I am drawn too, not the ones I am supposed to take because everyone else has done it this way. Once in that class I become aware of themes and ideas that I was unaware of before. The themes and ideas then become what I ask questions about. The other route decides the direction I will go. If I don’t want to deal with certain issues my unconscious self will lead me in the other direction. The ego leads me to answers within cultural boundaries. Spirit leads me beyond those boundaries to greater truths.
Traditional education offers some degree of diversity, but it does not discuss the interconnectedness of these various disciplines. It wasn’t until I attended Fairhaven that I began to realize that this is the root cause of being disconnected. The disciplines, these facts, are disconnected. A Spiritual approach to attaining a degree in psychology must include course work in various forms of cultural studies, creativity, body therapy, human ecology, psychology, and Spirituality. This interdisciplinary study allows a person to regain their own body, mind, and Spirit connection, to attain the necessary wisdom to help others become whole. A person can assist others in healing only if they have the necessary awareness, knowledge, and tools to become whole. One cannot heal cross culturally unless they completely understand their own culture’s strengths and weaknesses. The process of spiritual psychology differs greatly from modern psychology. The field of psychology focuses mostly on the Western notion of objectivity and rational methods to find a truth. Its focus continues to narrow into the analytical and statistical realm. Spiritual Psychology uses both Eastern and Western methods to become aware of truths. This blending of perspectives balances and strengthens the whole of truth and reality. In order to transcend ego one has to delve into the intuitive brain. One can see where thought itself is limiting. One only has to look at what has been done with this context with racism, sexism, genderism, ageism, classism, homophobia, and materialism. The rational mind has to see it before it will believe it. This idea that the proof has to be there before we will believe it causes some problems. If we can't prove something then it is not valid. This becomes a folly because much of what science is founded on is theory. none of it can be proved, but somehow it works. Feelings, emotions, and intuitions are all synonymously connected together. They offer what I call a spiritual connection to higher states of knowing. I believe that this right brain is far superior to the left brain perspective. ultimately it comes down to being guided by the right brain and the left brain is used to construct or deconstruct. The left brain on its own can be literally blinded by its limitations of enculturation. These limitations are like a software program that runs on exactly the parameters it is programmed for and nothing else. The right brain acts as the systems manager who notices something not functioning properly. Cultures role acts as the programmer who is unable to see the outcomes of its programming. This is the dilemma that needs to be addressed and healed.
I believe this crucial problem is the door that shuts out our awareness, our ability to be conscious of what it is we are doing. When we don’t have that left and right brain dialogue, which is called whole brain thinking, we aren't able to access consciousness. If we don’t have access to consciousness then we aren't able to move into enlightenment.
Western society "thinks" its conscious and enlightened. An enlightened society does not allow poverty, hunger, homelessness, and inequality of any kind exist. Nor does an enlightened society allow its members to destroy the very air, water, and soil needed to ensure their survival.
Cultural studies are crucial to begin examining the culture we live in. In exploring other cultures we begin to see differences and learn why they are that way. Requiring one to be immersed in another culture for a year or more would awaken this cultural bias. Cultural studies examine the infrastructure, structure, and superstructure of other cultures as well as our own. These structures are what control societies. Studying the politics, economics, religion, and customs can reveal a great deal about the limits of a culture and what it is unconscious about. There are also the positive aspects of other cultural ways of living, being, or doing that would be beneficial. This is why diversity is so crucial to being conscious. Other cultures are mirrors for us to see our reflection of what we like or dislike in our own culture. Having counselors and teachers with diverse backgrounds would offer different perspectives to learn from. The more perspectives an individual has allows them to make informed decisions on what is right for them to become conscious. We become conscious through the process of trial and error, of seeing how our choices work, and in seeing how other cultural choices work.
The different perspectives of creativity must be included in Spiritual Psychology. These perspectives include classes in playing with various forms. These forms might include diverse types of art, music, writing, playing, dancing, singing, and drama. Classes in art appreciation, art history, creative visualization, and creativity itself, would assist in conceptualizing the importance of creativity as a whole. Creativity would also require us to focus on how ourselves, others, and the world are constantly in a state of creation and to understand this process through direct observation and participation. We are all born with creativity from creativity itself. We are made out of the elements of the Universe itself, for all of the elements have come from the stars. Culture stifles creativity for various reasons in many people. To become fully functional requires one to have full access to their creativity. This allows them to create ways to support and nurture themselves in the world. Creativity is also a way of being able to express oneself in ways that move beyond the limitations of language. Creativity is a healing power as well. This source of creative inspiration is our indwelling direct source of power from the spiritual realm. Every day we create our lives by what we think about and what we choose to create. If we have unlimited creativity, then we can have unlimited lives.
Reconnecting to our bodies is an essential part of our healing. When the mind is joined with the body, space is opened for greater knowing and healing. This opening allows Spirit to enter our lives more fully to assist in becoming more conscious of who we are and what our purpose in life is. There are many types of body therapy from which to choose. Some examples are Rolfing, CONTINUUM, Alexander Technique, Somatics, Feldenkrais, Holotropic Breathwork, and Rebirthing. Each person must be allowed to intuitively find what works best for him or her. Bodywork allows the body to discharge repressed feelings, emotions, stress, and trauma that are caused in all cultures. Bodywork opens up the body to integrate with the mind so as to make space for Spirit to enter. This is what allows one to become conscious and aware. Other areas I consider as both bodywork and spiritual, are martial arts like Aikido, Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
Spirituality is not discussed in much of modern psychology. Jeanne Achterberg said, “Soul loss is regarded as the gravest diagnosis in [Shamanism], being seen as a cause of illness and death. Yet it is not referred to at all in modern Western medical books.” To understand spirit is to understand our Self. There are many ways to understand and hear Spirit. Spirit can communicate to us in words, images, and dreams. It can guide us through intuition and synchronicity. Spirit is our inner guide to understanding our Self and the world. It is essential that we have our connection to spirit. My studies will continue to explore how this connection is broken. I am interested in how enculturation causes disruption in the individual's sense of self and how that causes one to seriously doubt themselves. If this doubt is not conquered it can lead to fear which is an inhibitor of consciousness. I would like to further study how individuals can doubt and ponder without fear. It is important to understand that fear is a creation of culture. Being able to doubt and ponder is necessary to move into greater understanding. Various forms of inner work must be taught. This inner work allows the mind to be stilled to hear the inner voice of Spirit. This can be taught through diverse types of meditation, walking, prayer, fasting, vision quests, creative arts, shamanism, dream work, martial arts, Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong. In the past culture has taught me to follow the path of others. If I am to become whole, it is of utmost importance to listen to my inner knowing. An interesting facet of Spirituality is that it is all things and one can access it through all things. All the more reason to interconnect and synthesize disciplines and perspectives.
Psychology plays an important part in understanding the mind, behavior, perception and consciousness. There are different perspectives to learn from such as Cross-Cultural, Gestalt, Depth, Jungian, Freudian, Behavioral, Clinical, Humanistic, Phenomenal, and Transpersonal. Currently, these are taught separately, each vying for superiority over the other. Integration and connection needs to occur within all these fields. They all offer different perspectives integral to the whole. It is relevant to incorporate psychology studies with this in mind and see the connections that link them. The study of Whole Systems, Systems Theory, and Chaos Theory would shed light on this paradox. Psychology deals with human beings. I don’t see where statistics have any merit when the focus is supposed to be on healing a persons psyche. Psychology today is a business that is used to regulate the minds of the members of an enculturated society. What it does quite successfully is to assist people in the process of coping. The problems that patients have are not dealt with at the core issue. The focus is on the symptoms while the cause is dismissed. One of the drawbacks to the psychology field is that it doesn’t make the connection between disciplines and perspectives. what happens is that no connections are made between the body, mind, creativity, spirituality, culture, and human ecology. When viewed as separate distinct parts we are unable to see the fully functioning mode of being. An example of this is the belief by most people that certain people are born creative. Everyone is creative, we are born with it, and we could not live without it.
The study of Human Ecology brings awareness of nature to human beings. Our culture has conditioned us to view ourselves as separate from nature. This separation has caused considerable damage to the environment we depend on for our basic needs of air, water, and food. Human beings have been damaged as well from this separation because we are part of nature to. There is much to be learned about how nature can nurture us with more than our basic survival needs. Nature can heal our emotions and reconnect us to our spirit. Nature is our teacher if we are willing to listen, watch, and learn. Human Ecology classes teach awareness of what humanity is doing to the environment that it is part of. Human Ecology teaches about different types of gardening, how to compost and care for the soil, and conservation methods. New ways of living are explored and discussed. Current issues that are detrimental to the environment are brought to a conscious level. This allows us to change cultural patterns that threaten our basic survival needs. This field helps build relationships by teaching people to work together for common causes. It also teaches us to revere the Earth and our fellow human beings too.
All of these together open the door to consciousness. When we stop separating these areas of study, human beings will stop being separated in body, mind, and spirit. It will no longer be possible to remain unconscious, anymore than it is impossible not to breathe and nourish ourselves. This is what I see as Spiritual Psychology and its role to teach response-ability to humanity. I believe strongly in teaching people to be empowered, not in coping amidst unconscious survival mode. Perhaps now is the time to begin take life less seriously with a lot more lightness. Incorporating more joy, laughter, play, humor, ecstasy, and reflection into our daily perspectives. Taking things too seriously can cause a person to be shut off from other perspectives. History is full of seriousness and the value in letting go of tension would set the body, mind, and spirit free.
Brief account of origin and history of term and related matters:
The term psychology comes from: (Greek: psyche, logos; Latin: psychologia; French: psychologie; German: Seelenkunde). The term psychology itself is rooted in Aristotle’s time. Aristotle wrote his treatise Peri Psyches (“De Anima”) which was the universal template for psychology for two thousand years. Most of what he wrote of is still relevant today. E.F. Schumacher, in his book “A Guide For the Perplexed” states that psychology is probably one of the oldest sciences and regrettably a forgotten science:
‘Traditional psychology, which saw people as “pilgrims” and “wayfarers” on this earth who could reach the summit of a mountain of “salvation,” “enlightenment,” or “liberation,” was primarily concerned not with sick people who had to be made “normal” but with normal people who were capable of becoming, and indeed destined to become, supernormal.’
This idea of psychology as a tool to assist others to higher spiritual levels, “enlightenment,” was shunned for the pursuit of understanding the phenomena of the mind; how the mind operates, processes within its states of consciousness. During the Middle Ages philosophy and reason, the parents of psychology were all but obliterated by credulity and conjecture. The "Dark Ages" of Christian thought was merciless on anyone who would dare to think, question, explore, discuss, disagree, doubt, or show love openly. Those who did were tortured, burned, and or imprisoned. Around the end of the sixteenth century the term "psychology" came into use by Goclenius Casmann, who wrote “Psychologia Anthropologica” in 1594. Later in the eighteenth century Ch. Wolff popularized the usage of the term psychology (Lande). Psychology has been in a continual state of crisis. As it grew out of philosophy it struggled to become a science. For security it needed physics and medicine. Physics gave it the idea of the parts instead of the whole. Medicine gave it the model of pathology. Man was conceived to be a bundle of responses to stimuli. Behavior needed to managed and controlled and so it became nothing more than segments, experiences, and experiments. Today, psychology is realizing that the human being is intrinsically complex. The focus is looking at this richness of being, the power of the mind, emotions and feelings, and in consciousness itself. More pathways are opening up in the field as people look for better ways to move beyond the limited ways of thinking from the past (Lande 29).
The term Spirit comes from: (Latin: spiritus, spirare, "to breathe"; Greek: pneuma; French: esprit; German: Geist). The term Spirituality comes from the word spirit. In psychology, the adjective of spirit, “spiritual” is used to convey all that belongs to this higher realm. Organized religion within a cultural context has regulated the masses to limited ideologies. The regulation of personal belief is the basis of all political structures that serve to have power over others. Religion has a his-story of manipulating society for the gain of a small minority of individuals. Many of these limiting beliefs still exist today. Patriarchy comes into conflict with the true meaning of Spirituality by implying that religion and spirituality are mutually one and the same. Various religions continue to fight both verbally and physically as to the rightness of the one true religion. Spirituality embraces unconditional love. There are no conditions for being loved, we are born into "Original Blessing." Conditional love is based in fear. This fear utilizes anger, hate, and violence to coerce people into submission. Humility, shame, and guilt are the tools used by those in power to control others. These types of religions indoctrinate the unconscious masses that they are born into "Original Sin," which requires them to conform to the rules to be saved.
Various individuals throughout the ages have discussed spirituality, such as Jesus, Buddha, etc. Those in power have taken these figures and distorted their teachings to manipulate the masses. This state of affairs has led to a belief system that is no longer based on original teachings of equality and unconditional love. This context doesn't allow the wholeness of Spirituality into the patriarchal paradigm of church and state. We are taught that church and state are separate. But, upon closer examination we can see that individuals bring their personal religious beliefs into government and forge legal law based on those beliefs. Spirituality in its truest form has never been exterminated and never will. There is a distinction in what the definition of Spirituality means. Within the confines of the cultural trance, Spirituality is mostly an intellectual pursuit. Religions negative body image and the suppression of sexuality, through shame and guilt, has effectively shut down most of the body's feelings and emotions. This body politics has disconnected the body from the mind. This leaves people to imagine Spirit because they are no longer able to feel Spirits presence. Most rituals in religion have been created to disconnect individuals from their direct connection to Spirit.
The enlightened states of Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, and other prophets specifically came about from this connection of the body, mind, and Spirit. Through this connection each of us has the ability to become enlightened. Consciousness is best exemplified with the triangular model of self-actualization put forth by Abraham Maslow. This model explained the required steps in our basic human needs to move towards self-actualization or awareness. The responsibility of religion within a cultural setting is to guide individuals to enlightenment. Instead, religion teaches that very few people can attain enlightenment. There is a cultural tendency to use the words awareness and consciousness in a limited demeaning manner, as if to minimize the implications of what they imply. In reality the process of awareness moves one towards consciousness and onto enlightenment if we are willing to go forward past the walls of culture. This process was accomplished by all the great prophets and mystics. An enlightened society is nothing more than everyone being enlightened. It is the neurosis of most cultures to believe that they are already enlightened. This is the difference between what I consider Spiritual in the context of a Spiritual Psychology.
In the context of psychology as a science the first correlation with the Spiritual was in the 1700’s. Emanuel Swedenborg wrote extensively of this particular spiritual context as it related to the psychological well being of man. His writings discussed issues that are just as relevant today about faith. In particular, Swedenborg pointed out the hypocrisy of those in the church. His idea of Spirituality focuses on this body, mind, and spirit connection. This association was not synthesized within the psychology field because of the times. But, his writings and teachings had a large following. Swedenborg ultimately called for a more honest and integral Christianity and created a new church concept. Leon James writes that Swedenborg couldn’t be included in the science of psychology because he had no scientific basis (repeatability, measurement, and proof), and that they were his personal visions. God, which is never provable and repeatable, goes against the scientific paradigm. The negative biased scientists were monists or materialists and expected proof of this spiritual world before being accepted into science. James discusses the issue of scientific empiricism stating:
"The Writings of Swedenborg are totally unique in the history of science. Science has always had two branches: theistic and atheistic. Until the 17th century just about all the great scientists belonged to the theistic branch. Men like Pythagoras, Euclid, Aristotle, Leibniz, Descartes, Newton, and Darwin -- through whose work we have mathematics, physics, and biology, -- always assumed the reality of God, of revelation through Holy Scriptures, and of a life after death. They saw nature as a theater of physical matter and time that corresponds and depends on an underlying, more real and 'substantive' world of spirit and eternity in which God also ruled.
Beginning with the 18th century (the Age of "Reason"), there was a political reversal such that the atheistic branch of science became stronger, bolder and more erratic. It was a climate in which political Marxism and artistic nihilism were given birth. The modern era thus began in which, for the first time in human history, theology and revelation were stripped of official authority; what mattered most now was individuality and self-determination, unbound by hereditary culture and unchecked by religious trues."
Swedenborg's reputation was impeccable, with credentials as a member of Sweden's legislative body, as a government mining consultant, as a writer, as an inventor of significant engineering and navigational tools, and guest to many renowned scholars and scientists. Even today his eyewitness reports meet stringent scientific criteria. For three decades his spiritual observations were repeated thousands of times. Even with all this Swedenborg knew that his findings would be squelched and he predicted that they would eventually be accepted at some future date. Today his system is considered useful in many areas of psychology; in particular, the fields of psychotherapy, transpersonal and humanistic psychology, and psychobiology. There continue to be revelations in the Swedenborg writings that are calling for further studies. The scientific communities are still resistant to embracing Swedenborg's findings. Leon James points out that we are moving closer to merging spirit and science. A particular incident that exemplifies this:
"A contemporary Swedenborg scholar interested in medicine, Christen A. Blom-Dahl, wrote about his excitement when in 1973, after years of reading Swedenborg, he suddenly noticed that the character of the spirits Swedenborg encountered in various parts of the body-regions, were in agreement with medical discoveries about the function of these organs. But these discoveries were made more than 100 years after Swedenborg's death in 1771! Quoting from Blom-Dahl's The Third Source (still unpublished at the time of this writing in 1996)…"
We can see that here the beginning of the connection between the spirituality and psychology of man. It was not implicit in the body, mind, and spirit.
Seventy-one years later William James was born in 1842. His father was a believer of Swedenborg's teachings, who made sure his children learned them. This ultimately influenced his life in later years to pursue the "psychology of religion." James believed in the direct religious experience and had no interest in going to a church and abiding in ceremony as a substitute. He was not much for a religion that was taught from an indirect knowing. James had his own mystical experiences that left him profoundly moved, which motivated him to write at length about this in his book, "The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). This book finalized his interest in the psychology of religion. He described with rich concreteness, evidence that religious experiences proved the existence of sources of energy within ourselves that we could call upon in times of trouble.
James taught physiology at Harvard College and eventually followed his passions to teaching psychology. His interests focused on the physiological aspects, which was considered revolutionary. This challenged the vested interests of the mind, mainly theological, that dominated the colleges and universities of the United States. Psychology ceased to be a mental philosophy and became a laboratory science. The college contracted James to produce a textbook of psychology entitled, "The Principles of Psychology." His book assimilated mental science to the biological disciplines. Thinking and knowledge became instruments in the struggle to live. His ideas made use of psychophysics (the study of physical processes upon the mental processes) and defended, without embracing, free will (Encyclopedia Britannica).
By the early 1900's we begin to move into the influence of Sigmund Freud on the field of psychoanalysis. The academic world did not hold him in high esteem. In 1910 Carl Jung split from Freud for reasons having to do with Freud's attitude towards Spirit. Freud believed anything spiritual related to repressed sexuality. In addition, Freud was also placing personal authority above truth. Jung went on to work on his collective unconsciousness ideas. Jung was very much interested in Spirituality and to his credit he is one of the few leading experts on alchemy. His twenty-year exploration of alchemy brought about the realization that its true focus was on the transforming ignorance and darkness into knowledge and light . Spirituality began to creep into the awareness of psychologists and psychiatrists. The field continued to widen and separate from Freud with the advent of the Neo-Freudians (1885-1960), which included the likes of Otto Rank, Erik Erickson, Eric Fromm and Melanie Klein. This group emphasized healing the individual through feelings, emotions, and cultural trauma. Many improvements were made on Freud's work as well. B. F. Skinner came along in 1951 as a behaviorist. Skinner believed that behavior was the only legitimate concern of psychology. He saw behavior as something that could be seen, measured, predicted and therefore open to empirical, systematic, hard science such as physics. Skinner didn’t believe that feelings or objects of introspection were causes of behavior. This focus remained influential for quite awhile.
Meanwhile, incredibly rich, diverse views blossomed out of these conservative mindsets of traditional psychology. The likes of Reality Therapy, Reichian Therapy, Existential Analysis, Primal Therapy, Humanistic Psychology, Gestalt Therapy, and Logotherapy, Psychodrama, Hypnotherapy, Megavitamin Therapy, Mind Expansion Training, Scientology, Somatics, and Silva Mind Control. The study of the body had begun in the early 1900's as well. People began seeing the connection to emotional and physical well being in the body. These individual pioneers were not necessarily trained in psychology either. Many realized the correlation between the state of the mind and the state of the body (Johnson). I have alluded to these early in this article. It wasn’t till 1975 that Robert Frager created Transpersonal Psychology. Frager experienced the conventional approach to psychology, and found it lacking and fragmented. Frager recalled the ancient Greek system, which believed that education should account for all aspects of the human experience. With this ideal, he created a school of psychology to prepare psychologists in understanding human nature from an approach that transcended the pathological and encompassed the whole human being. The curriculum developed by Frager, faculty and students focuses on six core areas of inquiry: the intellectual, emotional, spiritual, physical, social and creative aspects of life. Depth Psychology is very similar to Transpersonal Psychology. In addition to these, there are other therapies that are growing in popularity such as Art Therapy and Music Therapy.
While it is promising that there is an expansion going on within the psychological arena, there is no requirement for teachers, therapists, counselors, and students to do therapy, bodywork, creative work, no cultural studies, no reconnecting to Nature, nor looking into the Nature of Spirituality intellectually and directly experiencing it. These teachers, therapists, and students are isolated indoors mostly from the direct experience of life. Even today, psychoanalysis is still considered the core of psychology. One cannot be a therapist, psychoanalyst, or psychologist until they go through the indoctrination of the clinical psychology or psychiatry programs. One cannot create a new field in psychology without this clinical training. This has had a profound and limiting effect on the psychology field. For it has effectively put the ideals of research before healing and it has become the model to which truth comes from, as if direct experience itself has no bearing. The template for research is based in, "seeing is believing versus believing is seeing." Research is done in the context of deciding on what the truth will be first and creating fixed criteria for experimentation. This seems to mirror the need to control outcomes, which are the cultural inhibitors of truth. I see research as needing to be a process of being flexible with criteria. Following one line of reasoning will give a limited outcome. If one is flexible it is possible to become more aware of other perspectives. It is as if the research template within the clinical setting has been fixed in a narrow groove, which controls and limits perceptions and perspectives.
There is this big blind spot that everyone avoids at all costs. Ego blocks recognition of anything outside of the cultural belief system it holds to be its reality of truth. This is what many call Satan, the devil, the dark side, hell, or the unconsciousness of culture (Russell 143-44). There are some that believe this to be the one and only sin. The formation of the ego comes about from the process of enculturation. We learn to set aside our authentic self as children to learn the rules of culture that are forced upon us. In his book, "Playing by Heart," O. Fred Donaldson describes this process which he calls the "Duchess' Game:"
'The Duchess' Game is a way of being and acting based on the Duchess's Law from Alice in Wonderland which states, "the more there is of mine, the less there is of yours." The Duchess's Game is an antagonistic encounter in which we succeed by defeating an opponent. This "game" can be cynically expressed in a slightly different manner as The Three Laws of Thermodynamics quoted by Dennis Overbye:
1. You can't win.
2. You can't break even.
3. You can't get out of the game.
In this zero-sum game, everything including life itself can be won, lost, possessed and awarded. It can be played anywhere and anytime, with balls, guns, and words and on sports fields, corporate boardrooms, political arenas, international battlefields, family living rooms, freeways, schoolrooms and playgrounds.
The Duchess's Game is a shared value system between people who need a symbolically and externally constituted sense of self worth-contest-and a society, which by granting it to them, reduces them to playthings. The game is sustained by a socio-economic, educational, and political philosophy, organized groups and a code of contest ethics. This adversary system is accepted, in part, because it has been an integral part of society for a very long time. So long, in fact, that people both as individuals and as groups cannot conceive of any other way of interacting. Throughout our history we have used one form of contest such as the courts to try to remedy the failures of another contest system, such as elections. We fundamentally believe in the efficacy of contests to cure social, economic and educational problems. But one form of cancer does not cure another; instead the patient now has two forms of cancer.'
This game is a cross-cultural game in one form or another. What ultimately becomes of children who live in these cultures is that they become emotionally and physically traumatized over and over again. Donaldson says that the game is a self-defense mechanism to culture. This implies that we create the game, as if it didn’t exist in culture, as if culture and the game are not the same (Donaldson 65-100). I would describe the process as hypnotizing ourselves into going along with the game (cultural rules) to survive. When this occurs our sense of self no longer comes from us, but from an external source. The process of becoming conscious is dehypnotizing ourselves or with the assistance of others who are aware of this state of mind (Russell 85).
The field of Psychology has two main responsibilities. The first is the focus of the healer and the second as the teacher of healers in an educational setting. Out of these two areas come all other fields of study. These two areas are where the programs and templates for healing are taught, used, and refined in order to heal human beings. It is disturbing that we call them clients or patients as if lowering them to a less than human dimension. This is one of the dimensions of clinical research that disagree with. Clinical approaches to healing are based on research done in lab settings. Much like animal research where animals are caged, humans are tested the same way under conditions that have little to do with real life situations. This approach treats everyone as if they are the same. Each person is distinctly different and requires different ways to heal. These fields offer different viewpoints, paradigms if you will, on what particular groups of people in academia and society "think" is the truth about human beings. These fields of thought are exclusively limited to the practitioners' field of study and do not include any other perspectives. These thoughts tend to be in line with cultural norms and beliefs. None of these fields discuss, share, or learn amongst their counterparts which include: Cognitive, Developmental, Behavioral, Social, Abnormal, Experimental, Educational, Memory, Environmental, Population, Counseling, Physiological, Adolescent, Cross-Cultural, Perception, Phenomenology, Psycholinguistics, Learning, and Statistics. These are individual psychology's that I liken to boxes that certain groups of people congregate and hold only their perspectives to be the truth. If we are to really open up to being whole, the fields need to unpack themselves out of their box and begin to synthesize, blend, share, learn, and question together as a whole system. Human beings are not parts.
I see Spirituality as the template to apply equally to all of these areas. Spirituality is the authentic self, the Godself which is that self-actualized self that Maslow alluded to. Spirituality is not meant to be in a box, a book, or the intellect. All of life is Spiritual and we should be conscious of its presence to lead a concerted effort that ensures the utmost honesty and integrity in the balance and healing of the body, mind, and Spirit.