I agree. So many writers take their phenomenological experience to be an accurate guide to ontological reality.
The other common fallacy (in my view) is to take the stages of one’s own life as a model for the lives of the rest of humanity. Oddly, BR mentioned the problem of stage theories in her 1986 interview with Stephan Bodian, yet continued to include a stage theory in her subsequent books.
P.S. One more fallacy comes to mind: to assume that just because a particular form of psychospiritual development is possible, that necessarily makes it desirable.
I agree with your points, Derek.
There are general movements in spiritual development and a number of ways of describing them. I find this helpful in spiritual direction, as those just starting out on the journey have different needs than those who've been at it for years. That said, I resist the temptation to put people in a "box."
And "amen" to your point about possible versus desirable development, to which I would add "experiences" as well. One must discern what will be good for one's overall development.
Phil, it was very nicely written text, pleasant to read, and this affirmation of that existence is got stuck to my mind, in a good sense.
This quote happens to be one of my favourites, in a world of quotes we live in these days. And you say you disagree with it. Which is perfect! I do definitely agree that people as a group can be dangerous (as well as individuals). Group can turn against you leaving you psychologically wounded, and you may never heal from it fully. And as i mentioned, before long time ago it could have meant even death. So it is very much understandable that fearing people is deeply in our conditioning/programming.
However, as i see it, it is another matter whether this fear is ultimately a good thing. One is afraid of being left alone and hence afraid of other people at some level and hence looking for acceptance and aiming to be normal or conventional -this is what we talk about, right? You compromise something of you, sacrifice, to be accepted then, right? Perhaps you work within industry even when you wanted to be an artist.
It does not mean that one needs to be against others, to wear clothes of a clown and shout and sing in supermarkets alone, just to be rebellious. One listens the flow also, naturally? Perhaps it is about the authenticity I refer to. And in authenticity there is no fear of others, there cannot be? The metaphor of lion to me refers to this state. It does not require one to be an anarchist. And what is one afraid of, damaging the ego (or false self structure seems to be the definition here)? Doesn't the fear then vanish when that structure or programming looses its grip? (Yes, you need to be healthy to begin with, and we all do need e.g. loving care in childhood. Maybe this is when one is willing to go somehow further)
The quote is from this short text: https://www.innerself.com/Crea...es/greatest_fear.htm
Because it's one of my fav quotes, I wanted to see clarification as to whether it still holds true to me.
And I guess this state of lion for me seems to be something desirable because I value subjective well being and truth (do you sometime need to choose one over the other?...). It might not come however and that is also ok . . .
It seems there are different kinds of fear, which break down into two large categories:
A. Situational fear -- e.g., running late, dangerous weather, a critical person coming for dinner, child has high fever, etc.
B. Existential fear -- deep, generalized, debilitating, a consequence of inner brokenness ensuing from early experiences of non-love.
When 1 Jn. 4:18 states that "perfect love casts out all fear," I think it is referring to existential fear. Eventually, that does happen with deepening surrender to God. Situational fears/anxieties are more difficult to eliminate, but we can, even in those situations, trust in God and gain some relief.
I agree with the need to distinguish between experience and reality, which sadly is not popular among today spiritual teachers. The ignorance about the Western premodern philosophical tradition makes people think that the West knows nothing about the nondual states. The more surprising is the casual way Aristotle says at the beginning of book three "On the soul" that the soul is all things which it knows because we know by becoming what we know. An he comments that obviously it is not the actual stone which is in the soul but the form of the stone which is communicated to us when we see the stone. Until Descartes it was elementary school philosophy but then people started to construe the soul as being inside the head and the world out there.
Even though I'm sure that the Western metaphysical tradition had a good grasp of the immaterial nature of the soul and its immense splendor as the shining image of God, the Eastern spirituality delves much deeper into the nature of the soul as the image of God , perhaps to the extremes of creating obstacles to more relational approach to the Creator. So this is a dilemma that many of us here face and you, Tucker as well, as it seems, when you say you cannot feel the love for the Father.
But there are also aridity states that need to be distinguished from "hyper-nonduality". The criterion is desire, I suppose. If you desire to feel God's love and presence but you can't and you feel bad with this, it suggests it's aridity. If you're totally OK with impersonal states, that's another matter.
Bear you are really on top of things, and I mean this honestly. Now just for fun, a case can be made that you can never feel completely safe, and at any given moment in time we are always vulnerable. Our personalities, at least for most people, are designed to protect us from feeling vulnerable. And the feeling of being vulnerable can be defined in different personalities in different ways. When you feel like a "Lion" you no longer feel vulnerable to the actions or thoughts of the group mind or the individual mind. At least in a general sense, because you are also aware that there are situations that you can get into where people become uncivilized and are dangerous. You also know that you do not push others into feeling vulnerable by taking their "Lion" away from them. Shortly said Bear, you respect other people if they will give you half of a chance.
So how about this Bear, "Are you an empath or at all empathic?" Can you feel the emotions and feelings that other people and living things are experiencing?" My main problem with people is that I am extremely empthatic and somewhat telepathic." And Bear most people have a lot of fear and anger buried in their minds (and their private thoughts are not generally speaking pleasant). And what is funny is that for the most part they do not even know about it what is buried in their mind. And you have to be careful when interacting with most people or they will become defensive and very upset whether they say anything about it or not.
Bear I went all the way down to my deepest fears and I have no hidden fears (and it made me very sick). But, when I get pissed or feel fear, I know what fear or fears have been bumped. They still might set me off but they are not hidden. And for the most part I can control this stuff because I am watching what is going on as it is happening in my programming . And for the most part I consciously run a lot of my autonomic nervous system to keep it in a positive and healthy state of being. I do not depend on my thoughts or emotions to keep my autonomic nervous system healthy as most others do.
Love you , tucker
From bear: Phil, it was very nicely written text, pleasant to read, and this affirmation of that existence is got stuck to my mind, in a good sense.
Thanks! It gets even better, so I hope you will buy the book and read the rest!
Excellent post, Mt. I think the "premodern" Christian teaching on the soul (e.g., St. Thomas Aquinas) can account for a wide range of experiences, as Occult Phenomena in the Light of Theology, by Alois Weisinger explains. Do a search for this work and there's a free PDF version now. He notes that the body and psyche subsist in the spiritual soul, which qua spirit, opens to the whole universe (Rahner developed this idea as well in his notion of death releasing the soul unto a pan-cosmic state). A wide variety of phenomena give testimony to an experience of spiritual consciousness as being "partly-body-free," as Weisinger called it. This would include out-of-body states, NDEs, and a wide range of mystical experiences, including "natural" ones. So these non-dual experiences can often be explained in terms of the soul being a spirit that transcends the physical universe -- even "contains" it, in some sense. It's easy to understand why some might consider this an awakening to divinity, especially in comparison to the more constrained focus of the Ego. But, of course, that universe experienced so intimately and unitively was already "there" and is nothing we can take credit for -- so much for being divine!
My book draws on this understanding in its distinctions between God and Self, the latter being the soul's experience of its innate subjectivity -- that it is not merely some-thing, but some-one. Ego, in turn, would be a further development of this direct experience -- in its earliest arising, the simple noticing that one is aware that one is aware. Yes, I think that's Egoic, as it's one small reflective step away from simply "be-ing." It's natural and unavoidable that we do this; the problems come later, when we attach all sorts of labels and ideas to the Ego, overly identify with them, and then live out our lives from that biased perspective. I think that's what most spiritual writers mean by "Ego," but obviously the problem is not the Ego so much as its attachments. Ironically, it will be the Ego that learns of this and decides to do the hard work of detaching, re-focusing, re-learning, etc.
ah Tucker, yes, it seems you are right, and at least more right than what i was.
i would not want to think this Lion state is of ignorance what Osho refers to, but i get your point. more awareness, more fear. so it seems one never gets rid of his programming completely but can only distance himself from it? what a disappointment!
i'm still wondering what on earth is Osho writing about fearlessness then. maybe he is wanting to encourage people to move to this fearless state and be authentic rather than defining what state one can attain in long-term. (and it seems there can be a moment of Lion state for very few, so it is there though not for long-term enjoyment.)
Here is where things get fun Bear : You are healthier and happier when you are in the Lion Emotional state than when you aren't in it. The Lion Emotional state is good because everything is "on" and functioning in a balanced way. And because you have reached the level of understanding that you have reached you can be in the Lion Emotional state without needing permission from your personality programming. You are just "on" no reason needed. When you consciously step into the Lion Emotional state your conscious mind is controlling and manipulating your autonomic nervous system in a positive way . It stimulates your immune system and when one is in a well being feeling state the rest of the automated things in your physical are on and running more smoothly than they would be in a stress or semi stress (normal) state.
The thing is that you do not need a reason to be in the Lion Emotional state and it is the reasons you need to feel certain ways that take you sideways. I have permission to feel the Lion Emotional state and other similar states because having those automated systems "on" is good, not because of any fear that may or may not be there. Bear you have found the feeling now just dump the reasons and feel the feeling because you are healthier when you do and not healthier when you don't. My code word is "on" and the only reason for "on" is because I am healthier, not because I feel better. And the instant that my mind tries to become involved because of my childhood conditioning I shut the thoughts off.
Bear you have a Lion Emotional state so be in it because you are healthier, not because it feels good or because you have modified personality programming permissions. Love, tucker
very nice, thank you Tucker!
Will Phil, I read your book. As always you are an excellent writer who has thoroughly researched the topic. The conclusions that you come to are valid based on my experiences. And what you have written is very clear and easy to understand. Your book "God and I, Exploring the Connections Between God, Self and Ego" needs to be looked at by the psychological establishment and by the Christian community and by regular normal folks even. Your book is a must read and a keeper Phil.
Now with that said the Phil that we visit with on this message board (except for once in a while) and the Phil that wrote this awesome book are not the same personality even though they are the same person. From this I must conclude that when you wrote the book that you were Spirit inspired. And that some times when you interact act with us on this message board that you are also Spirit inspired, but most of the time you are a beloved normal person.
This book is a must read! It brings easy to understand sanity and clearness to a subject that is, if we are being honest , a mess and difficult to understand. Phil, what does your agent say about this book? You do know that most publishing houses will not even look at a book without it being presented to them by an agent. Phil your book needs to be looked at and read. It is a gift to others.
Now with that said, Lulu prints a great paperback book at a reasonable price. And the book does arrive a short time after you order it. I really like Lulu as a printing outfit. Love, tucker
Phil, perhaps it would be good, before we go any further, if we clarify the meaning of our terms.
Just to check that I am understanding correctly the way you use "Self" (which you capitalize) and "Ego" (which you also capitalize):
Self you define on the bottom of page 22 and the top of page 23. Self is that which knows experience and yet at the same time can "bend back" (BR's observation) on the knowing to become aware of its own existence as the knower. On page 31 you remark that "Self," in your usage, is both "subject and witness."
Ego is taken to be the same as Self, except operating in a different mode, namely, focused on some volitional activity that engages the faculties in order to accomplish a goal. At the bottom of page 44, you say it is "the experience one has of Self in its reflecting and intentional engagements." And similarly, on page 45, you remark, "Self and Ego are not two different things, as God and Self are. Rather, Ego is Self experienced in its engagement with the world of people, places and things."
Did I get that right?
Thanks, Tucker. I am, as you noted, much more relaxed and prayerfully present when I'm writing. I try to be as well with the discussion forum, but don't always succeed, I know. I take heart in the Gospel presentations of Jesus as one who sometimes becomes a bit annoyed in some of the "dialogues" he's pulled into. I submitted the book to numerous publishers, and none gave it serious attention. We needed to use it for a spiritual formation program I was part of, so I just went ahead and printed it. Lately, I've been thinking of trying again with publishers, so we'll see how that goes. I don't have an agent, however; haven't needed on in working with books I have had professionally published (as opposed to self-published).
Derek, you've got it. The easiest explanation is that Self is synonymous with awareness, which, ultimately, is spiritual and, at its deepest level, non-reflecting witnessing presence. Ego is the experience we have of Self when awareness becomes more focused through intentional and reflecting engagements (which might be healthy or unhealthy). This is quasi-Jungian, but situated in a quasi-Thomistic anthropology.
I believe Ego is important in that it is about actualizing our human potential and, of course, meeting our needs. What most people call the false self is an Ego that is excessively preoccupied with Persona concerns -- an Ego wearing a mask, largely to compensate for inner brokenness.
The more I grow, the clearer all this becomes. Given this use of terminology, it makes no sense to speak of losing one's Self, as the witness to this process would be . . . Self! It's also clear that one can learn to tune into Self as non-reflecting awareness through a few simple exercises, which I've shared in the book. This is a natural state and a very good one, but life inevitably activates Egoic consciousness as well, and that's not a bad thing.
Very good. So how would you unpack the following, using your meanings of Self and Ego:
That is from Ephesians 4:22–24, New American Bible translation. The Greek is παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον and καινὸν ἄνθρωπον, if it makes any difference.
Derek, v 22 could be understood as an Ego caught up in worldly values and Persona concerns: approval, control, self-sufficiency, wealth, etc.
23. "spirit of your mind" is probably meant to address the underlying motives that move the mind's considerations.
24. the "new self" here would correspond to an Ego surrendered to God's care, applying the mind and will to living and growing in the Spirit; in chapter 7 or 8 I refer to the Spirit-centered Ego.
Note that in all these verses, an appeal is being made to some aspect of human consciousness. To my understanding, that would be to the Ego itself, for it is always emerging from the spaciousness of Self and thus has access to some degree of freedom with which to re-direct one's life.
So then we now come to the concept of "freewill" based on or using the definitions of self and ego used in your book. The actions and thoughts of broken Egos can't be forgiven unless the Egos are fixed. Yes? And Self is not at fault because it is just an observer. No ? "the "new self" here would correspond to an Ego surrendered to God's care," Who or what fixed the Ego so that Self could observe God?
I understand what you have written in your book Phil because I have personally experienced it all over the years as a mystic under the guidance of Lord Jesus as my Master. What I never had was a definition of words to explain it. I have been in meditation to a place where I am as an observer looking at two windows. One window is the physical or what the left side of the brain sees, the other window is the spiritual and what the right side of the brain sees. When I as the pure observer look out the physical side window I see every thing as physical and having "mass in motion". When I as a pure observer look out the spiritual window I see everything as as spirit and having "energy in motion". In this state of awareness I am pure Self as an observer with no Ego definitions or any attachment to either window. From there I experience God the pure observer observing through me as the pure observer. From there my Master says to me, "Look away from the two windows." When I do everything goes "ka-blewy" and I am in a different world. As a pure observer I do not try to understand that world or God as the pure observer observing it through me.
Is Ego, as you definite it in your book, still there? Yes it is but it is very quiet and it is experiencing this state of awareness but what it is experiencing is way different than what self is experiencing. What it is experiencing is quietly waiting because it is not an observer. The physical world is real and the spirit world is real and the Ego is real. And when you look away from those three reals without attachment to them there is something else that is real and that something else is what exists outside of Creation as we know it. Science can not measure anything that is outside of Creation as we know it using any of the materials that exist in this Creation as we know it. And because science can not measure it it does not exist. But we as mystics as Self in the pure observer state with God in the pure observer state observing with us through us can have a look at what is out there where apparently God lives.
Once the Ego is retrained by God the pure observer it will assist one's Self, as "an" observer, in participating in this new world that is beyond Creation. "And put on new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth." Phil others have been out there and looked at what I have looked at, it is just how do you understand what they are saying? You need to read your book, and then understand your book, and then experience what it says.
Tucker, there's a lot in your post above to reply to, but I will take just one part, here.
I do not see Ego and Self as separate. Self in its spiritual, non-reflecting aspect is a background witness; Ego is a way of speaking of Self in its active engagement with duality (including, here, God as an-Other). There is only one "Who" and that is Self; the awareness operating in and through the Ego is Self.
Sinful Egos are forgiven by God prior to anything we do, and this grace is what encourages us to change (along with negative consequences). Ego activates the intellect and will to repent and to learn a new way of living (Rom. 12:2), and this, in turn, transforms the memory as well so we no longer identify with an unhealthy self-image.
As for the Self observing God -- the Self cannot do so in its natural state, for it is embedded in God, who is its Source and Ground. There is no one and nothing to see, for Self and God are intertwined and seem as one (hence, monistic systems and non-dual spiritualities). If God so chooses to draw one to a deeper vision and experience, God can do so, of course, and that would be a mystical experience, for sure.
Just to note, here, something made explicit in chapters 7 and 8 -- that even in the Ego, one can experience mystical states. Kataphatic mysticism is very real -- maybe the most common type. This would include experiences of God mediated through nature, word, concept, Sacraments, relationships, art, visions, etc.
I will share directly from the book summary of Chapter 8, pp. 145-147, which I think addresses some of your other points, Tucker.
Self, as the spiritual consciousness of the soul, naturally reaches toward God, Who is its Source, but it is also oriented toward animating the whole human person, including organism and psyche. Christians will note that the risen Jesus is alive in all these dimensions; he is not purely spiritual in the sense that angels are. Authentic spirituality needs to address all these levels -- including the social, political and ecological as well, for these are the formative contexts of our unfolding. The book does not go much into those issues, but one can see that its message begins to move in that direction.
Re: Eph 4:22 Richard Sorabji, a philosopher, in his book about the notion of the self proposed to distinguish two meanings of this term - "thick" and "thin". By thick Sorabji means the totality of what we are - the body, mind, personality etc.while by thin he means the core self to which the pronoun "I" refers. I this it's useful. When there is a talk of old self, new self, transformation of the self it is sure meant the thick self, the whole human person. The thin seems to be what Phil terms Self with capital s. And the total person is not identical to Ego, right? Ego is an organizing principle of our personality, isn't it?
Phil, I find your descriptions of Self vs. Self-God union one of the most helpful and clarifying formulations. Unfortunately, this distinction isn't present at all in the movements of centering prayer and Christian meditation. I suppose it's because the leaders don't have experience of those two states. When you arrive at Self in its pure natural mode there is a sense of fulfilment and there is nothing really to look for anymore. It's seems absolute. Hence the powerful and understandable tendency to just stop there and dwell there. And it's brings peace and transformation to emotional life , but I think that a limited one, given the fact how many deeply enlightened gurus engaged and still engage in deeply immoral behavior (Genpo Roshi rationalizing his extramarital affairs as spiritual growth - disgusting)
But when the infused contemplation comes , it's like a whole new dimension opens. You are in the Self, totally satisfied, seeing all phenomena as reflected in the mirror of your soul without duality, and suddenly like a depth, abyss opens, the bottom falls out and this incredible Love draws you in or swells within you. And you know you are loved and that the source of this love is beyond you. But where was it in the nondual state? Where did it.come from? No idea. But it comes and goes and you have no influence on it and at the same time it's so respectful, allowing you to go with your daily business or to let yourself be embraced by it. And this love is paradoxical because besides peace there is yearning, desire, sense of lack, of being unworthy of it etc. Then after minutes or months it is gone and you have no idea where it went and how to call it back. And through faith you know that it's present in your faith, that it is not something extra, elitist or beyond ordinary prayer. It's rather an intense revelation of what every Christian has in himself by faith, hope and charity.
Mt, I'm not familiar with Sorbji's distinctions, but it does make sense to affirm the idea of "person" as including everything that we are. Self, in the way I speak of it, is a spiritual reality -- the subjectivity of the soul, but, as such, it pervades all the levels of our being, and so it is Self that constitutes a person as a "who" rather than an "it."
Wonderful sharing in your second and third paragraphs. It sounds like you speak from experience, here.
Years ago, when I read Surprised by Joy, by C. S. Lewis, I was struck by what he shared in his experience of being wounded. You can find it in chapter 13, and it's apparently public domain. Click here.
So there it is in Kant -- a background, observing self, and a reflective, interactive self. The latter derives from the former, which is its source or ground. This pretty much sound like Self and Ego; Lewis even calls it "I" and "me," as I do in my book. He doesn't seem to have explored this any deeper in his writings and I've wondered why.
The second thing that stood out for him came later -- a new appreciation for the gift of life.
This sounds to me like an Ego that has been awakened anew and is now in touch with how amazing and precarious life really is! It is now in touch with its deeper ground in Self, and so is less identified with Persona concerns -- success, approval, playing roles, control, etc. Existence resonates everywhere, and is felt deeply. Something of this will be communicated in his speeches and writings for decades to come.
Phil, it's wonderful that you brought C.S.Lewis up! Actually, to a certain extent he explored the Self s.Ego, in his last book, Letters to Malcolm, he shares the way he prays:
"If you start investigating the nature of matter, you will not find anything like what imagination has always supposed matter to be. You will get mathematics. From that unimaginable physical reality my senses select a few stimuli. These they translate or symbolise into sensations, which have no likeness at all to the reality of matter. Of these sensations my associative power, very much directed by my practical needs and influenced by social training, makes up little bundles into what I call “things” (labelled by nouns). Out of these I build myself a neat little box stage, suitably provided with properties such as hills, fields, houses, and the rest. In this I can act. And you may well say “act”. For what I call “myself” (for all practical, everyday purposes) is also a dramatic construction; memories, glimpses in the shaving-glass, and snatches of the very fallible activity called “introspection”, are the principal ingredients.
Normally I call this construction “me”, and the stage set “the real world.” Now the moment of prayer is for me—or involves for me as its condition—the awareness, the reawakened awareness, that this “real world” and “real self” are very far from being rock-bottom realities. I cannot, in the flesh, leave the stage, either to go behind the scenes or to take my seat in the pit; but I can remember that these regions exist. And I also remember that my apparent self this clown or hero or super—under his grease-paint is a real person with an off-stage life. The dramatic person could not tread the stage unless he concealed a real person: unless the real and unknown I existed, I would not even make mistakes about the imagined me. And in prayer this real I struggles to speak, for once, from his real being, and to address, for once, not the other actors, but—what shall I call Him? The
Author, for He invented us all? The Producer, for He controls all? Or the Audience, for He watches, and will judge, the performance?
The attempt is not to escape from space and time and from my creaturely situation as a subject facing objects. It is more modest: to re-awake the awareness of that situation. If that can be done, there is no need to go anywhere else. This situation itself, is, at every moment, a possible theophany. Here is the holy ground; the Bush is burning now."
Mt, from what I've read, the entire guru business is corrupt.
My latest speculation as to why is that these gurus pretend that pure consciousness ("Self" in Phil's terminology) is all that they are. This denial of their sexual and aggressive urges causes the same to ooze out in covert, distorted ways.
Sorry to bring up BR once more, but she proposes a U-shaped spiritual journey. Once you've reached the deepest of the deep, you don't just "stop there and dwell there." The only way to make further progress is to turn around and come back out into the world -- albeit in a new way. Michael Washburn's model has something of this in it, too.
That is a wonderful quote from Lewis, Mt. Without getting into the complicated issue of whether our intellectual activity creates an inner realm that actually mirrors reality, he affirms the reality of Ego and the importance of authenticity. An Ego overly preoccupied with Persona concerns is sure to be somewhat inauthentic, but even one doing inner work can be deluded. In the end, the Ego must recognize that it has a self-image, but it is not limited by such. Self-image is an inevitable creation of the memory, but it is fluid and can be upgraded, which is good news. Even so, there comes a time when it seems the mind no longer bends back in reference to it when making evaluations, and that is a true freedom.
Derek, I've long been suspicious of those who seemingly latch on to exalted titles like guru, enlightened, yogi, and the like. It seems these can become identity-attachments and so just another example of the false-self Ego: "listen to me, I'm enlightened, I know what I'm talking about . . ." Many of these teachers seem to have done little work with the psyche and what I call the Ego-Self relationship. They sort of by-pass it, and the psychological stuff comes out sideways in their teachings and relationships.
I once broached the topic of Washburn's schema with Bernadette Roberts, but she shut it down quickly. W is talking about a regression of the Ego in the service of transcendence, from which the Ego emerges more integrated with its deeper Ground. She rightly noted that she used "Ego" in a different sense and that was the end of it.
In light of my own approach, I've long thought that BR was a good example of an Ego that had become deeply absorbed into the Self/God Ground and was no longer referencing self-image in it operations. This would be an ecstatic state, for sure, but one in which the witnessing Self is still observing and noting the changes that have taken place (which her books document), then making use of the intellect to articulate them. There is also unmistakeable evidence, at times, of a reflecting Ego that is combative and defensive, even to the point of using ad hominems. If one sets aside the regard some attribute to her as some hyper-enlightened Christian, then that all makes sense; she's still got a "conditioning" that pops up in certain circumstances, and she still acts out of it. Welcome to the human race!
I think too many of the spiritual teachers rely on one method only as THE method for self-transformation and healing. One of the most sensible things Ken Wilber insisted on is that enlightenment doesn't heal all emotional problems on a psychological level, so psychotherapy or other forms of psychological work ("working with the shadow", as he calls it) should be applied. But Wilber relies too much on psychotherapy - he believes that it'll fix all problems and prevent the teachers from moral corruption. But it turns out that it doesn't. Psychotherapy is not magic, it requires personal decision to change and a lot of hard work on a daily basis, since personality habits often go on for decades and it's irresponsible to believe they can be eliminated in a couple of months or even years. Especially, the narcissistic personality disorders are hard to change and it seems that a lot of spiritual gurus have exactly that, which doesn't make a good combination with their sense of enlightenment. I think enlightenment only enforces their narcissism and leads to the belief they know everything about human life, happiness and transformation. I believe that only Christian humility and reliance on grace, apart from psychological work and enlightenment, can at least contribute to a deeper transformation. But it's not a guarantee of complete healing either. We all know saintly people who still can be psychologically immature. C.S. Lewis seems to have been a very authentic Christian, working hard on himself, but he lived for decades in a weird relationship with his dead friend's mother and he certainly coped with emotional and relational problems the whole of his life. We don't aim at perfection in this life and this is, as Phil rightly emphasizes, the basic framework of our whole spiritual life. To let God sanctify us as much as it's possible, given our brokenness, but to be always aware of that brokenness.
In Phil's terms, psychotherapeutic/psychological work is Ego-Self path, enlightenment/kundalini is Self path, Christian theosis without mystical graces Ego-God path and Christian infused mysticism - Self-God path. I guess every path can make a great impact on our emotional, relational and moral life, but it seems that especially neglecting Ego-Self and Ego-God is a bad idea. Those, to me, seem necessary for a decent life; Self and Self-God, that is, natural and supernatural mystical paths, are not required for good life, but if we are called to them, they seem to enhance the sanctifying/healing process significantly.
Great post, Mt.
Quite right that psychotherapy does not "fix" immorality. Rather, it can help to make more inner freedom accessible, but where one goes with that is another matter. I think philosophy is the interface between psychology and spirituality, and philosophy does include ethics.
I also agree that Ego-God should be primary, as it can provide a foundation for Ego-Self work and for following the leadings of grace to the Self-God Ground. In my D. Min. project, I called this an Ego-Self-God approach to spirituality. Excessive emphases on the Self-God experience such as we find everywhere these days can do great harm. That's why Quietism blew up, for one thing. Approaches that deliberately deconstruct the Ego can be helpful in small doses, but if they predominate in one's spirituality, that opens the door for a wide range of problems. Among other things, individuation is neglected, and I think Jesus' Parable of the Talents has something to say about that.
In my view, it is only Christianity that affirms the goodness of the full range of developmental possibilities. "The glory of God is man fully alive," as one of the early Fathers put it.
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