Posts Tagged ‘Mind’

At the end of the previous post I indicated that I would be exploring Assagioli’s perspective in more detail, as well as looking at the three levels of body, mind and spirit along with some of Jenny Wade’s levels of consciousness, all in the context of interconnectedness.

Not too much ground to cover, then, but it’ll take one more post after this to traverse it all.

At every level, it is important to emphasise, there are degrees of connectedness with aspects of reality outside ourselves. Our failure to realise those connections has seriously damaging consequences not just for us but for our relationship with all these aspects of our environment.

Ring and Valarino in their book Lessons from the Light, as I was already hinting at in the previous post, are clear that an NDE generally leads to a compelling realisation of our connectedness with all life. It is not only Mellon-Benedict’s experience, quoted in the diagram, but many others as well, and not just from their own studies. They quote Moody, one of whose respondents wrote:[1]

One big thing I learned when I died was that we are all part of one big, living universe. If we think we can hurt another person or another living thing without hurting ourselves we are sadly mistaken. I look at a forest or a flower or a bird and say, ’That is me, part of me.’ We are connected with all things and if we send love along these connections, then we are happy.

That is all very well, and Ring and Valarino are convinced that immersing ourselves in such descriptions of NDEs will help us move towards a similar level of consciousness, albeit somewhat diluted. However, even for those who find this works, and there are many who will not, this will probably fall short of creating deep and enduring changes in their perspective and ways of operating.

What else can we do to create and strengthen such a sense of connectedness?

Assagioli[2] sees the conscious self as ‘submerged in the ceaseless flow of psychological contents.’ The Higher Self, on the other hand,[3] is ‘above, and unaffected by, the flow of the mind-stream or by bodily conditions.’

The term he chooses to use to refer to the ‘psychic environment’ is Jung’s phrase ‘’collective unconscious,’ though he admits that Jung has not clearly defined the term. Different phrases have been used in different traditions in attempts to name some form of collective but subliminal consciousness which is hypothesised to exist. Yeats refers to it as the Anima Mundi. The Bahá’í Writings refer to the ‘universal mind’ as when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá responds to a woman’s letter advising her: ‘to forget this world of possession, become wholly heavenly, become embodied spirit and attain to universal mind. This arena is vast and unlimited . . . .’

For Assagioli the conscious self is simply[4] ‘a projection of its luminous source.’ Again there are parallels with the Bahá’í perspective. As ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains (Some Answered Questions), ‘the mind is the power of the human spirit. Spirit is the lamp; mind is the light which shines from the lamp. Spirit is the tree, and the mind is the fruit.’

We are not completely oblivious of all aspects of the spiritual dimension. Assagioli refers to a kind of ‘psychological osmosis’[5] that permits a degree of interpenetration. The barriers between us and a transcendent dimension are to some degree permeable.

Emily Kelly in Irreducible Mind quotes Myers in terms of his sense of the divide between spirit and matter:[6]

“The line between the ‘material’ and the ‘immaterial,’ as these words are commonly used, means little more than the line between the phenomena which our senses or instruments can detect or register and the phenomena which they can not.”

There are such models though:[7]

A few individuals have suggested that the brain may not produce consciousness, as the vast majority of 19th and 20th century scientists assumed; the brain may instead filter, or shape, consciousness.

This takes us very easily to the experience of reflection. Emily Kelly quotes Myers this time quoting Thomas Reid, an 18th century philosopher:[8]

The conviction which every man has of his identity . . . needs no aid of philosophy to strengthen it; and no philosophy can weaken it.… I am not thought, I am not action, I am not feeling; I am something that thinks, and acts, and suffers. My thoughts and actions and feelings change every moment…; But that Self or I, to which they belong, is permanent…

Myers felt that we needed to find some way of reliably tapping into these levels of consciousness:[9]

The primary methodological challenge to psychology, therefore, lies in developing methods, or ‘artifices,’ for extending observations of the contents or capacities of mind beyond the visible portion of the psychological spectrum, just as the physical sciences have developed artificial means of extending sensory perception beyond ordinary limits.

What kind of methods might be applied to this task?

Perhaps it should not have been as surprising as it was to read just four pages on from my last quote for Lessons from the Light:[10]

Imagine a therapeutic technique that was itself based on an attempt to induce a life review type of experience. Indeed, we do not have simply to imagine such possibilities–they already exist in such approaches as psychosynthesis and holotropic breathwork…

My previous sequence of two posts about my breathwork and my references on this blog to Psychosynthesis and my application of the practice of disidentification indicate how closely my life experiences have been connected with these two threads.

As my earlier exploration of breathwork suggests, I am inclined to believe that this approach, connecting us as it does with our bodies, also helps us connect with nature and the earth.

This is not my current focus, valuable though that is. I am therefore now going to consider briefly Assagioli’s model as encapsulated in Psychosynthesis.

Assagioli goes into considerable detail concerning the methods we can use to mobilise ourselves to attain higher levels of consciousness, by organising our efforts around an ideal destination, by creatively following our intuitions, or best of all by blending the two approaches. I have definitely used both approaches at different times and under different circumstances.

However, as readers of this blog will be well aware, the most powerful tool I have ever found in his approach is disidentification, which maps to closely onto the practice of reflection, which I discovered first in Koestenbaum and later more profoundly explored in the Bahá’í Writings.

This exercise was an important step forward for me in the process of getting closer to the core of my being. The concept of reflection that Koestenbaum conveys moved me even further forward.

What did I take away from his definition that was so important?

Once I attempted to give advice to someone in a difficult situation. What I wrote was probably one of my best attempts to convey to someone else unfamiliar with the concept why reflection in Koestenbaum’s sense is so important.

This is the gist of it.

Reflection is not just thinking. We all think all the time. The trouble is we are stuck so close to the content of our thoughts that most of the time we never think about them. Stepping back from what we think, and thinking about it, is only the first step though.

We also stick too close to our beliefs, feelings and action patterns to see them for what they really are. We experience them as the world rather than as our simulation of the world. We just act them out a lot of the time as though that was the most natural and right thing in the world to do. Much of the time it may well be OK when these thoughts, beliefs, feelings and action patterns are benign, reasonably accurate or at least harmless. It’s not at all a good thing when they distort reality in ways that wreak havoc.

Koestenbaum contends that all reflection is painful. It requires stepping back from our most cherished assumptions and the wrench as we tear ourselves away can hurt like hell. Unless we sincerely strive to do that we will have no compassion for the other person who feels significantly differently, and we will have no ability to understand their point of view or modify our own.

The deepest trap in the failure to reflect is that we can mistake who we really are for something else. Ultimately reflection must involve stepping back even from our idea of ourselves if it is deeply mistaken.

This obviously enhances our capacity to connect with other people as well as with the earth we tread upon and the other forms of life that share the planet with us.

But there is more. This is where Koestenbaum and Assagioli overlap in what they are saying about how high we must take this skill.

While Koestenbaum’s pointer that the ‘extreme inward region of consciousness’ to which reflection enables us to get closer is what we in the West call God was extremely valuable, it was not until I found the Bahá’í Faith that I realised just how important two other factors in our behaviour were to this process of self-enhancement: consultation and service.

More of this next time along with an explanation of Tom Oliver’s quotes in the diagram.


[1]. Lessons from the Light – page 177.
[2]. Psychosynthesis – page 18.
[3]. Op. cit.: page 19.
[4]. Op. cit.: page 20.
[5]. Op. cit.: page 19.
[6]. Irreducible Mind  – page 70.
[7]. Op. cit.: page 73.
[8]. Op. cit.: page 74.
[9]. Op. cit.: page 91.
[10]. Lessons from the Light – page 181.

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