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So far, I've been focusing on the need for a cultural paradigm shift. An entirely new worldview is needed, if we are to pull out of the kamikaze dive in which we're ensconced. We've reviewed elements of the present worldview as they manifest in business and education, and briefly touched on perspectives that embrace the shift as a whole. We've mentioned the work of Gebser, Elgin, Slater, and Eisler -- each speaking about a natural unfolding towards a next evolutionary step, as well as requiring self-effort to bring these promises to fulfillment. Clearly, the smallest unit of a culture is the individual, who together with others constitute the culture as a whole (setting aside that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts). In this essay I propose that we also need to reassess what it means to be a human being.
During the past sixty years new branches of psychology -- known as transpersonal and spiritual -- have appeared and grown toward their own maturity. Although by no means ignoring pathology, these approaches point the way to the highest human potentials. Having trained in a number of these, I am most familiar with psychosynthesis (now included within the rubric of spiritual psychology) having studied with a direct student of its founder, Roberto Assagioli, who himself had studied under Freud for a time.
Assagioli realized that the process of synthesis is visible at all levels of existence: cells assemble to form an organism, letters join together to form a word, musical notes combine to form a melody, individuals unite to form family units, and so on.
Proceeding from the basic observation that serious difficulties in the human psyche - emotional pain, a sense of imbalance, or meaninglessness - result when the natural process of synthesis is blocked, Roberto Assagioli devised a system of theory and techniques to evoke and facilitate the process of synthesis in human life. To this system he gave the name "psychosynthesis".
Contrasting psychoanalysis with psychosynthesis, Friedman states that the former fails to adequately recognize the higher developmental levels discussed by Assagioli under the headings of "crises of spiritual awakening" and "spiritual psychosynthesis." What is suggested are deeper questions of identity and purpose than are provided by the ego and superego which negotiate the rules and roles of society but offer little beyond.
Despite the strength of psychosynthesis as a most comprehensive model of human nature, Assagioli still stated, "psychosynthesis presupposes psychoanalysis."
One major difference between the two systems: we find that psychosynthesis incorporates the reality of a "higher unconscious", in addition to those parts of the unconscious with which Freud dealt, which in psychosynthesis is referred to as the "lower unconscious"(bottom third of diagram). Neither does it limit itself to the adjustment of the personal self (inner circle); psychosynthesis acknowledges a transpersonal and Universal self (star at top of egg diagram).
The higher or "superconscious" layers of the psyche (the upper third of the egg diagram) are the repository of the best, most highly developed qualities of which human beings are capable: altruism, creativity, intuitive awareness, spiritual aspiration, empathy, joy, and love. These are seen as energies seeking expression according to the readiness of a client's personal self.
The Universal Self when contacted is found to be a dimensionless, timeless, space-less empty/overflowing point at the center of every human being, which can be referred to as a "spark of God" (or in Sanskrit as "Sat-Chit-Ananda" -- infinite existence, consciousness, and bliss).
Much of earlier psychology limited itself to strengthening the personal self or autonomous ego, which the Dalai Lama has acknowledged as an important task upon which further spiritual growth can be based, but without being aware of its inherent limitations). And from today's viewpoint we can see where the emphasis of our separateness has brought us ("Don't you know we're on the eve of destruction?" -- Barry McGuire)
While transpersonal qualities include higher states that join us with others, the Universal Self reveals that we are all emanations of the One. What a different world we would have if enough of us truly experienced this as reality". Einstein is paraphrased as stating that, 'You cannot solve many problems from the same level of thinking that created them in the first place."
When you watch the news, do you not perceive that those speaking are doing so out of their own "ego bubble?" That is the norm that we see in the media -- and often in everyday discourse: humans identify with their separate ego minds, thinking they will solve pressing world problems while engaged in "ego-speak" (having had at best very momentary glimpses of transcendence, usually quickly dismissed) - unaware that there may be more to us than these assumptions, and advocating combat of some kind, e.g., "the war against drugs".
I initially titled this set of essays -- "The Recovery of Humanity." Jose Arguelles has argued that for millennia humanity has been caught up in a "civilizational trance", one that has now culminated in a sort of "technological binge." We have become intoxicated with our growing power to manipulate our environment, and a consequence, we have already created a massive and dangerous depletion of resources.
Using analogies of addiction and recovery, Arguelles asserts that humanity stands at a critical juncture in its evolutionary path. We can be compared to an alcoholic hurdling toward his or her "bottom"; as such we face a stark choice between continuing our binge or reaching for sobriety. (Sadly, for some addicts their bottom is death). Our choices will determine whether we, as a species, will have the option of enjoying our beautiful planet or soon face large-scale and disintegration. [For more on the latter see 9/5 article by Henry Giroux - Neoliberal Fascism and the Twilight of the Social].
All of this points to the need to look inward and to work on our own consciousness. This means not limiting ourselves to focusing on the problems of the external world. No doubt there is plenty of work to do in the public sphere, especially in the realm of emancipatory pedagogy. We also need to expand our awareness to be able to grow inwardly - in essence recreating ourselves to be able to express transpersonal qualities, (which are beyond the intellect) in the world at large. It will avail nothing if we stay the same and expect the world to change. Thus, many of us are turning to worthy psychological and spiritual guides (or "coaches") to help us facilitate this process.
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