4 Universal Dreams - The Spiritual Dimension by Dr Daan Steyn
From afar a tree is a green blotch and when the wind blows the whole tree sways. As we come closer, we see individual leaves and fruit between the leaves. In the fruit are pips, each one of which has the genetic potential to grow into other, separate trees, given the right circumstances.
From afar a tree is a green blotch and when the wind blows the whole tree sways. As we come closer, we see individual leaves and fruit between the leaves. In the fruit are pips, each one of which has the genetic potential to grow into other, separate trees, given the right circumstances.
Next to the tree there is a lake, a sheet of water. Scoop up a handful of water and a stream of droplets flows out of your hand into the lake. Through a microscope each drop is a world of little beings, organisms and viruses. In a laboratory each drop can be analysed into hydrogen and oxygen.
When the functioning of the brain was discussed in Chapter Two, it became clear that the information gained is very different when the whole, living brain is studied and when only one area of the brain in an unconscious animal is studied.
Just as a tree and a lake and a brain is different from different perspectives, so different perspectives of human beings can be obtained. Just look at the spectators at a sport field - like one they jump up and shout excitedly. A closer look reveals not one giant organism but thousands of individuals. Some are shouting for joy and others are groaning in despair. Each one of these individuals can be analysed into smaller and smaller parts until only a little heap of chemical elements is left.
What do all these examples mean? What you see, is what you seek. A human being, and human behaviour, can be studied at every level and in every dimension of human existence. What we find, depends upon the level or dimension of behaviour we are concentrating upon. Each perspective found is authentic and valid, as we shall see in chapter 46. The complete truth, if it exists, cannot be found without taking every one of the different perspectives into account. No one is saying that it is easy or that it can be done at once. What is being said is that all these aspects of human behaviour need to be taken into account for the sake of comprehensiveness and for responsible treatment.
Where are the boundaries between us? It is therefore necessary to say something about the greater whole within which each of us lives. A living person is not a separate part of a greater whole such as a friendship, marriage, family or congregation. A person is not a clearly separated part of the larger network like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle is a piece of the whole picture. We have in the opening paragraphs above used the Cartesian method of dividing everything up into parts and then analysing the parts merely as an illustration of different perspectives but, when it comes to everyday reality, we are dealing with living people. Is it not our everyday experience that it is very difficult to determine the boundaries between people because they flow into one another at a certain stage?
Who knows where boundaries between a husband and wife lie? Even when they are angry with one another, they are one - they are hooked into the same games, they know what to expect and how to react, they use the same kind of words. It is only by looking at their bodies that one can find definite boundaries between them. When we include the children, we are dealing with one large organism rather than with separate individuals - typically the whole family has the same kind of attitude towards things, uses the same kind of words, plays the same kind of psychological games. What happens to one is immediately reflected in the behaviour of the others. Take one away and the whole system changes, like a kaleidoscope.
The life of the wife of an alcoholic is influenced as much by the alcohol as he is himself (just ask Rosette Olivier) even though she may not actually have a drink herself.
In other words, a living person is a dynamic part of a flowing, constantly evolving relationship. Is there not in a friendship a certain flow of life in which we laugh together and then become quiet and again are angry with one another? Each time we are slightly different because the whole, the system, the friendship is dynamically changing.
The members of a family influences one another and reflect one another's moods. They actually influences another for what they are for without the one, the others are not the same. In our families we make one another angry, and happy, we make love. We are we. Everybody knows this.
In the flow of daily reality we do not react to one another as parts of a whole but as part of our self. When the husband is happy and satisfied, the wife experiences it in her own heart and muscles and she is also happy and satisfied. When a member of the family has a problem, one can see it in the body language of the other family members.
Is each person not the reflection of the group in which he or she is living? Is each person not, in fact, a coproducer of that group? Every person can take credit for the atmosphere in the group. Each person can also share the responsibility for the success of a group or family.
Where does behaviour begin? Behaviour may begin at any level or any dimension - on the biochemical, transpersonal or spiritual levels, in the imagination and thoughts. More will be said about this in chapter 46. Wherever behaviour begins, it reverberates through every level and dimension of our beings and also through all our relationships. It is like a stone cast into a lake - it creates waves which move in and through the water and effects every drop of water in the lake.
Why does the Great Commandment say that you should love your neighbour as you love yourself? Why does the Bible say that you will reap what you sow? And: do unto others as you want others to do unto you? As Paul writes to the Corinthians: " we are one body but there are different members" (1 Cor. 12:12). So we are one relationship and everybody, each individual, is a reflection of what is happening in that relationship.
Naturally together in life. The illusion of life is that we live separated from one another. Just read the stories, think of your own experience - we move through life together like drops in a river. It is only when we artificially freeze life and stop the river to analyse each individual drop under a microscope that it seems as if they are separate. It is also only when we look at people in a similarly artificial manner in our theories that it seems as each person has a separate life.
There are, of course, boundaries between people - the body ends at the skin, for example, but each one of us is also a boundless being. Part of our search for a personal identity involves finding ourselves as a transpersonal, spiritual person and learning to set our own boundaries before we become lost. This is why material possessions and jobs become so important - we want to set limits to reality and define ourselves. Ultimately, however, we need to find ourselves as individuals in this unlimited, immaterial, spiritual world. We are multidimensional beings. We know that. It really isn't necessary for anyone to spell it out and give it names.
Actually, problems begin when we try to analyse things and give them names and put them into theories. Then it becomes artificial. It would be better to say no more now for deep down everyone knows what we mean. This is the most important point - to know that what you know, is true, as we shall discuss further in chapter 48.
For the natural sciences such realities and truths were too vague and impossible to measure. This is the reason why our mainstream culture has tried for the past 200 years to suppress such ideas and experiences by labelling them "unscientific".
It is now realised that the scientific method which artificially separates things to analyse them is not the royal road to paradise nor the answer to everything. Now we seek the truth embedded in unity and oneness (and call it "holism" and "ecology"). But this is not something to look for - it is part of us and all around us, just like air. Ultimately we can only experience it and express it. It is the way we are.
Do we need words? We have, however, taken apart and analysed ourselves and our world to such an extent that we do need words to try and put it together again. Many books cannot do it. Only one's own experience and knowledge of oneself as part of a great whole and of a greater truth can heal one's world and make it whole again. But: we do need words to give our experience names so that we may understand ourselves.
It is a whole, interconnected world. There is a dimension of reality which is in everything and which unites everything. This is very important for our understanding of human development. As pointed out above, there is a need to discover one's own identity. This leads to a growing separation or differentiation from other people and from things and this leads to a sense of loneliness, socially and materially. At the same time there is also a growing sense of oneness and identity with something greater than oneself on the transpersonal and spiritual level. So, on the one hand, there is growing separation physically and, on the other, a growing integration spiritually. The main thing, the central theme of human development, is a growing sense of real and authentic identity as a person, as the whole person one is capable of being.
There is, in other words, as Czikzentmilyi (1992) describes so well, a need for differentiation and for integration. There is the need to differentiate oneself as an individual and simultaneously a need for meaningful integration as that individual identity into a family, group, network and universe. In a group of mature and complete people, there will thus be a maximum of individual expression and a maximum of oneness with the group and a maximum of mutual understanding and acceptance.
Under such ideal circumstances there will be a harmonious flow of energy and minimum of suppression and tension and of all the problems resulting from that. This is the ideal of the congregation as described Paul (and probably the ideal of all other religions as well). This is why one will want to "love Thy neighbour as Thyself". This is also why it is important to find oneself and one's place in life.
What happens when there is a lack of self acceptance and acceptance by others? We are happiest and healthiest when we are so engrossed in something that we are not aware of ourselves (Czikzentmilyi,1992). In this unselfconscious involvement there is a flow of energy and constructive growth. We are also able to play meaningfully. As soon as we become aware of what we are doing, we become too self conscious. We then block the flow of energy because we feel too shy, guilty or ashamed (and the reason is that we do not accept ourselves sufficiently and do not feel accepted by others). We block and suppress the flow of energy by denial, rationalisation and all the other ego defence mechanisms. The result is tension, tiredness, illness, playing false games and all kinds of problems.
We can say that the purpose of religion, and psychotherapy and other forms of treatment, is to enable the person to relax and get a grip on life and find his place so that the energy can flow again.
What factors are involved? When we talk about a flow of energy and of being comfortable and at home in ourselves and in our networks, it implies that we are not referring merely to our bio-psycho-social environment, important as it is. A complete person is a bio-psycho-socio-spiritual person and we live in a multidimensional world.
Where there is height, there is depth, where there is a tendency to order and to constructive growth, there is also the tendency to chaos and entropy or destruction. Where there is good, there is bad as well. These cosmic forces are, as the poet NP van Wyk Louw wrote, two sides of the same ball - when the light shines on one side of the ball, the other side is in darkness. Where there is light, darkness lurks. John wrote (John 3:16): the light is shining in the darkness and the darkness did not overwhelm it.
We are all part of this multidimensional world and of these forces. This, after all, is what the science of chaos is about. Our most important choice in life is, therefore, either to be part of the constructive edifying powers and forces or part of the destructive forces which cause us to become less and less the person we are capable of being. John would say that we need to choose between light and darkness. Do not all religions have as their major purpose salvation from the destructive powers and incorporation into the constructive powers?
In other words: we are born into families but also into the influence of powers of cosmic significance. We do not grow to a personal identity and integration on the intra- and interpersonal levels only but also on these transpersonal and spiritual dimensions, as we shall discuss in chapter 46.
What does this have to do with deficiencies, addictions and toxic relationships? Habits, ideas and choices involve more than a personal life or even the life of a family or dynasty. The behaviour of an individual usually reflects life in the group to which he belongs and the group reflects the greater whole of which it, consciously or unconsciously, is part.
Biochemical balances, genetic factors and available energy are undeniably important in human behaviour. Equally important are education and conditioning and so are social relationships and intellectual perspectives. All these things are the individual in his relationships, in his group, in his living paradigm.
When, however, we look the transpersonal or spiritual life of a person, we are standing at a point in outer space and we see that all these things, even the whole of mankind, is minute and relatively inconsequential compared to the flow of cosmic powers.
All the addicts, all the entrapped people and all the holy people, all of mankind, are nothing in the vastness of space. No matter how important or urgent a desire or need is, even the need for faith, it is as nothing in this context. The choice does not, therefore, primarily concern a particular desire or relationship but where that desire or relationship will place us in the flow of cosmic forces. The choice is ultimately a choice for either the constructive or the destructive.
From this point of view, addictions and toxic relationships reflect the fact that the person (and his people or group) living in entropy, is being reduced as a person, whether he knows it or not. The person is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
It is not only the person who is being swept along in the stream of destruction. The story of Graham Wessels tells how a man was being isolated more and more from his friends and family by his wife because she could not relate easily to people. This sounds like a fairly ordinary kind of interpersonal problem. But, as you read further, one can see the growing entropy, the reduction of the man and the growing despair and chaos in his social and financial life which eventually leads to thoughts of suicide, the final destruction. This kind of problem is not only interpersonal or biochemical - Paul writes that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual powers of evil in the air (Ephesians 6:12).
As a child Deidre Visser was overwhelmed by the power struggle in her home. She lived the chaotic battle between her father and mother. The only solution she could find at that stage was to eat and then vomit. This gave her a sense of control over something. She was making something happen.
How did she break free and begin to grow as a person? Information and insight plus more energy from the supplements gave her an intellectual grip on reality and a more stable self-control. The fact that she made friends with someone who was positive and constructive must have strengthened this new experience of constructive living. Isn't it interesting, however, that Deirdre could begin to grow in a constructive manner only after her mother had found the strength from somewhere to break out of the destructive pattern the family were engaged in. In other words, ultimately Deidre and her mother managed to escape from something bigger than themselves and to experience constructive relationships and positive growth.
This is perhaps a good place to point out that, although it has been said here that decay and entropy are negative processes, this is not always true. It was, for example, necessary that the behaviour of Deidre and her father and mother, that whole negative family system, fall away and be replaced by a more constructive system and more positive behaviour. Chaos and entropy, in other words, create rich and fertile possibilities for change. If there is no change, then the system and the behaviour involved will come to an end. In Graham Wessels' case the end could have been suicide and then the process of entropy and chaos would have been wholly destructive.
We can then say that it is meaningful to understand personal growth and development in terms of genetics and biochemical balances, interpersonal relationships and the dynamics of family networks and social systems. We could stop there. The question, however, is: "is there something more? Is there another factor, another dimension to life which will make our understanding of human behaviour more complete? Were these people initially entrapped in a greater network than the social networks and did they escape from that into a more constructive system and network?"
How did Deidre experience it? She says that as a child: "it only feels right when things are confused and it is all mixed up because that is what you have always coped with”. And later: "I have a nice new friend...she is full of ideas". Of her mother she says: "for twenty-two years you live with this person and now it is different, it really was a major adjustment". It was also difficult in a different way: "I believe in God but I am not a practising Christian because it is such a crisis".
Is it possible or even "scientific" to deny another facet of reality when people say (and here one need only read the stories in the book to notice how often it is mentioned) that they believe in something greater than themselves even though they are still struggling with it?
What names shall we use? What do we call this facet of reality? Is it a "spiritual" or "transpersonal" dimension? Is it the reality of "mind" about which Paul writes so much? Is it the unity with God about which John writes even more, in John 4:16 for example? What about Peter who writes (2 Peter 1:3) that we become partakers or partners of the divine nature and escape from the evil in this world?
By the way, the corruption the believer escapes from is the result of "desire" or "lust". The word Peter uses here indicates that it may be any form of excessive desire - such as for success, fame, money, work, social attractiveness, exercise, food, alcohol, drugs - which dominates one's life and thereby also influences the people with whom you live negatively.
Everyone knows that in the Bible (and other religious writings) there are also two powers between which one must choose, consciously or unconsciously, actively or by default. The religious terms used to describe these forces have been overused to such an extent that they are virtually useless as descriptive and explanatory tools. It may be refreshing to use new words for these old concepts.
The "Morphic Fields" of Sheldrake
Rupert Sheldrake is a British biologist who starts with the basic assumption that life is not made up of bits and pieces. Like the French philosopher Henri Bergsten before him, he believes that life is a flowing, interconnected whole. Sheldrake has also conducted experiments some of which are included in his book "Seven experiments that could change the world". Some of them are described below to illustrate the point being made.
Sheldrake (1995) also refers to the experiments of the South African medical doctor, author and poet, Eugene Marais as described in his book "Die siel van die Mier" (The soul of the Ant). Marias dug a narrow trench between the two halves of a termite mound and placed a steel plate between the two halves. Naturally, the queen could live only in the one half but life continued as usual in both halves. Even when the queen was captured but kept alive, there was no change. As soon as the queen was killed, workers on both sides of the steel plate stopped working.
It was also found that if a steel plate was placed between the two halves of a termite nest, the tunnels in the two halves meet exactly after the plate is removed and the damage has been restored by the ants.
Marais ascribed this unity in the nest to "the soul of the ant" or "group soul" and Sheldrake calls it a "morphic field". He also mentions that Gunther Becker demonstrated in Germany that ants influence one another by means of a "biofield". His theory is that a "biofield" is probably a low energy electrical field produced by the ants themselves.
Is there possibly something like this in our communication with one another and with animals? The story of Clever Hans, the horse that could count, is well known. No one could find out how the horse counted until somebody noticed that his handler moved while Hans counted and so unknowingly gave Hans the signals that enabled him to "count".
Not so well known, writes Sheldrake, are other experiments with horses in which they count without anyone giving them signals.
One trainer actually wrote each of three numbers on separate pieces of paper, shuffled them and placed them on a table face down. Even he himself did not know what the number was. Yet the horses could count correctly when someone pointed at the paper with the number on it.
When it comes to experiments, it is becoming clear that the expectations and attitude of the experimenter influence the results of an experiment. The question now arises: "do we all live in some kind of "group soul" or "morphic field". Is this perhaps the same as the "collective unconscious" Jung wrote about?
According to Sheldrake, morphic fields can exert an influence on events in so far as they "organize self-organizing systems, things which organize themselves, like snowflakes....or ecosystems, or animals, or societies, like flocks of birds". We might add: "or families". What is organized by the morphic field are the usual processes of the substance or system or animal or family. It is the habits of the family which are organized at this level.
In an interview (Weatherby, 1995) Sheldrake says that morphic fields are: "fields of habit, and they've been set up by habits of thought, through habits of activity and through habits of speech. Most of our culture is habitual, I mean, most of our personal life, and most of our cultural life, is habitual".
When one now thinks of the years of habits in the family of someone who is addicted to some substance or the habits in the life of someone living in a toxic relationship, it seems logical that there can be something like a "habitual force field" or a "morphic field". In other words: it seems logical that there can be something like a "field of energy" or a "biofield" or a "group soul" in addition to learned behaviour and biochemical deficiencies and all the psychological, genetic and socioeconomic factors. Such a field would naturally influence the process of rehabilitation (and would have to change as well). On the other hand, such a field must be important in the development of constructive and successful habits in a family too.
It does seem as if the development of patterns of behaviour or habits (and the life style of an individual or family) is not only a biological and social process. There seems to be another factor. In the same interview Sheldrake says: "in the process of cosmic evolution you see a spiritual as well as a material process".
This whole concept may seem strange in the context of addictions and toxic relationships. The idea is not to try and prove something but to show that scientific researchers are looking seriously at an aspect of life which we have traditionally called "spirit" and "spiritual". The intention is not that words like "morphic field" or "group soul" should replace words like "spirit" or "mind" but that we may look with new eyes at these well-known concepts. In the process we may gain a new perspective on our own behaviour and be able to manage ourselves more effectively on all levels of our existence. Or don't we need to live more consciously and effectively on the spiritual level?
These new concepts also create interesting questions. What, for example, is the effect of a morphic field on the habits of people in a self-organising system such as a family? How does it affect the question: "who is to blame?". Reading the stories from this perspective might be enlightening as are some of Sheldrake's experiments.
Sheldrake asked a group of people in a particular city to complete tasks and solve problems like crossword puzzles. No one in the group had seen the tasks before. The following day another, comparable, group was asked to complete the same tasks and solve the same problems (which they had also not been exposed to before). The interesting thing is that the second group always completed the task more quickly and correctly.
What does it mean? The conclusion is that we are connected on some unseen level. We are one, we go through life together. When someone solves a problem, it makes the problem easier for others to deal with because the solution is now "common property", so to speak. This common property is the morphic field. It is called "morphic" because it is the manifestation, the "becoming visible" of the pattern which, in this example, are the answers to the questions.
We could add here the hypothesis that a morphic field could also be the manifestation or the "becoming visible" of a problematic habitual pattern of behaviour which the members of a family have in common. In one person in the family it may show up as an addiction to alcohol, in another as workaholism and in a third as some other repetitive behaviour or a toxic relationship, but the basic pattern is still the "common property" of that family. We are still one, we still go through life together.
Can we now answer the question: "who is to blame"? Or is it a non-question? Maybe the question should be: "what do we do about our habits, what are the solutions we should be looking at?". In Biblical terms the question is: "how do we change our mind?".
What has the Bible to say about such "group influences” or "fields"? One of the most dramatic examples of the influence of a group of people is found in Mark 6:5. In his home town Jesus was unable to perform miracles or powers (dunamis), except to lay His hands on a few people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
What is "mind"? These days the tendency is to equate "mind" with cognitive functions and thinking and in dictionaries it is associated with the brain as the organ of intelligence. This is not the way Paul uses the word.
Paul's use of the word may be illustrated by the following tale about mind and conditioning. Behaviourism is the most "hard nosed", scientific branch of psychology. Concepts such as "mind" and "personality" are dismissed as "left overs from the Middle Ages", for example. "If something exists, it can be measured", is the basic dictum of behaviourism.
A British behaviourist was telling how they are able to condition people who are paralysed from the neck down to sit upright. They use only biofeedback methods. This is wonderful. It changes the whole perspective of the person and enhances the quality of life enormously. The really wonderful thing, though, is that it is not physically possible. There are no known physiological mechanisms for the blood pressure to be kept high enough for the blood to flow over the brain. As soon as the person sits upright, he should faint as the blood drains away from the brain. How does the behaviourist psychologist explain this? "We will have to take the concept of 'mind' seriously", he said.
Anyone who can explain how these paraplegics managed to sit upright and how they learned to do so, will understand the concept of "mind" as Paul used it and also the injunction of John the Baptist and Jesus to "change your mind". It really has little to do with intellect or brain functioning in this context.
Paul, in any case, is very clear that there are different types of mind. In Rom. 1:28 he describes one kind: "...because they did not deem it important to acknowledge God, he has given them up into a depraved mind (adokimon noun) and this leads them to break all the rules of conduct. 29. they are filled with every kind of wickedness.... envy, murder, rivalry... they invent new kinds of vice...”
According to Paul's description, such a mind is more than an idea or emotion or attitude - it is a power which causes behaviour. Just imagine someone with a dietary deficiency underlying an addiction being treated and then going back into such an atmosphere or "mind" or "field"! Even though he may be assisted biochemically, medically and interpersonally, he is still exposed to the invisible power we may call the "mind of the family" or the "soul of the family" or the "energy field of the family". And everyone may be unaware of this power in their lives (and treatment). Napoleon Hill's (1977) statement is very apt in this context: knowledge is a power primarily because it reduces dependence upon the unknown. This another reason why relevant information about all levels of human behaviour is so important in treatment.
Dries Joubert, among others, points out that friends and family have the tendency to recall the past and to make one feel guilty.
Does this repetitive habit and concentration upon the past and the addiction create a "mind" or "family field", some kind of "morphic field" which will cause this attitude and problem to "become visible" and manifest in behaviour? Is it not necessary for the family and friends to "change their mind" as John the Baptist and Jesus (Mat. 3:2, 4:17) and later Paul (Rom. 12:2) preached? "Mind" is here used in the singular for what we call "mind" is, in this context, shared by several people. Paul, for example, writes (1 Cor. 1:10) that we should have one mind and be of the same mind, not as an intellectual agreement but as an aspect of our being, our existence. It is, once again, the way we are.
Does this mean that the whole family (and their friends) are caught up in the addiction in a spiritual or transpersonal manner? Are they the victim of their own habitual attitudes and interests (to use more common terms) in a spiritual sense and is the addict not actually the symptom of the attitude and interest of that "mind"? Is he not the spokesman, so to speak, of the group mind? Is he not the one that "makes visible" what is going on in the mind of group? This would certainly be in line with the systems approach and the theory of family therapy. It simply adds another (fourth) dimension to our understanding.
The same principle applies to other behaviours such as illness (or health), failure (or success), poverty (or riches).
What about Christians? Paul writes: "but we have the Christ mind" (1 Cor. 2:16); do not be like the world but be renewed by the renewal of your “mind" (Rom. 12:2) and "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (1 Phil. 2:5).
Paul is here describing a certain way of being, a certain mind which is different from that of other people. What distinguishes Christians from other people is the constructive and edifying mind as opposed to the bad, useless mind ascribed to the Romans. The content of this mind we learn from Gal 5:22. Although it is usually translated "the fruit of the spirit", Gal. 5:22 can also be translated as "the results of the spirit" and they are all constructive and positive, namely, peace, patience, joy, self-control.... To use the word and concepts we have been discussing in this context, we can say that these constructive behaviours are the result of the habitual pattern of being of the group, a morphic field, if you like, which makes them visible.
What is a change of mind then? What this also implies is that a change of mind is far more than an intellectual insight or an emotional experience or both. It is a choice for participation and cooperation in a constructive aspect of reality. It is an anthropological change, a structural change in which one becomes a four dimensional person, a spiritual person, living in a renewed "mind" or "field". One could say that it is a salvation from the destructive aspect of the world and universe to the edifying "divine nature" (2 Pet.1:3) and "Christ mind".
The result of this change are the behaviours described in Gal 5:22 and constructive growth, including self-differentiation and integration into the "like-minded" group. This process of growth has been described very well in psychological terms, among others, by Jung, with his concept of individuation, Maslow and his hiarchy of needs, Czikzentmilyi and the flow of energy.
However one describes it, ultimately a change of mind is a choice. It is a choice everyone must make simply because we are part of the universe and its flow of power and energy.
It is a choice we make whether we know it or not for choice is not only a verbal or intellectual matter. Self-destructive habits, like playing too little, drinking, eating, working too much, et cetera, are already the expression of a choice. A choice for the destructive aspect of the universe.
Constructive habits, a balanced, complete, mature lifestyle, is a choice in deed if not in word, for the constructive aspect of the universe. In which sphere of influence one lives, is manifested, "comes alive", in the habits and behaviour, not only of the individual but of the people with whom he is sharing life.
"God is agape (love)", writes John, "who abides in agape, abides in the sphere of influence of God"... Paul writes (Gal. 5:22): "if we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit". That is: manifest the spirit in our behaviour. These two writers clearly believed that there was another dimension to life which should be manifest, come alive, in behaviour.
What is sin then? We can say that the essential, existential sin, in contrast to social transgressions, is ignorance. Ignorance of one's true place, role and purpose in life so that we miss the point, the full meaning of our existence. Sin is then also ignorance of oneself as a four dimensional, spiritual being, part of an invisible whole, the "field" or "mind" in which we live.
The basic, existential sin is not the addiction or toxic relationship or the personal and social immorality it implies. These are the signs and symptoms of the misplaced life of a person who has lost himself, probably never really got to know himself in the first place because he living in a group unable to guide him. This group ignorance is the essence of a group living in sin. The addict, the lost person is "making alive", manifesting, the kind of mind and field the group is living in.
In other words, what is required (also as part of the treatment) are spiritual leaders who know from experience how to guide people on this level and in this dimension. It requires people who can see through the behaviour, through the ignorance and biochemical imbalances, to the real person and who can reach out and let that person grow to be the complete person he ought to be.
How does this fit in with the ecological approach and with nature? There are many events in nature which illustrate the unity between the members of a group on a non physical level. The experiments of Eugene Marais involving termites which are somehow united into one whole organism have been mentioned. Something similar may explain how a flock of birds, comprising thousands of individuals, can suddenly change course in the air. Is this also how hundreds of frogs all suddenly stop croaking at the same time even though they are spread out over a large area?
Lyal Watson has written a number of books which are listed in the bibliography on this topic. The most interesting from a spiritual point of view is perhaps Gifts of Unknown Things which deals with healing powers in a traditional Eastern society. The Lightning Bird is a similar story about a traditional African society.
It is probably also on this level that shamans and others who live close to nature can experience oneness with nature and with specific animals as Grof (1990) also describes.
The essential difference between the holistic paradigm and the deep ecological paradigm is the emphasis placed upon the awareness of unity and interconnections by the latter. If this awareness, this experience of oneness and unity with the universe and nature, including people, is equated with spirituality, then the essence of the deep ecological paradigm is spirit (Capra,1996).
What about traditional African cultures? Traditional African cultures generally share a complete and complex paradigm although there are differences between them as well. This paradigm includes the kind of experience and awareness we have called "deep ecological". It happens, for example, that a person from the Tswana culture begins acting strangely, wandering around in a kind of daze, hearing voices, etcetera. This may easily be misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. The person may, however, actually be in a state or process which is culturally sanctioned and indicates that the person is being called by the ancestors to fulfill some life task, such as becoming a sangoma or traditional healer.
The person may, if he is accepted, undergo training or an "internship" with a recognised sangoma. Here the person learns about all the aspects of human existence. This includes the use of herbs (the physical aspect of illness) and cooperation with the spiritual powers and with the ancestors (who are the link to God) in healing disease.
Traditional people do not live primarily as individuals or even as members of a nuclear family, but in social systems or networks and it is actually the balance of power in the system and subsystems which must be adjusted or healed. It is very important that the person's role and place in the system be healed. If, for example, some ritual has been neglected, then the healer will enable the person and the family to fulfill their obligations through appropriate ritual.
Every event always has a spiritual explanation or cause. Healers are, therefore, trained to recognise and interpret the meaning of events so that the balance of power and proper communication with the ancestors can be restored through the appropriate actions, rituals and ceremonies.
Training is severe, including long periods of abstinence from food and drink and crawling for miles over rugged terrain. A Christian told how his mother (a sangoma) could lie submerged under water for seven days and when she then healed, her power was awesome. Training typically lasts some seven years although there is no set limit for it depends also upon the progress of the trainee. The cultural paradigm is learned orally in this training although there is some speculation that there may be written records.
This has been a very brief description to give some idea of African culture in the context of the deep ecological paradigm, morphic fields and the spiritual nature of human culture. A more complete perspective can be obtained from other sources such as The Lightning Bird of Lyal Watson.
The point being made is that a large proportion of mankind, probably the greater part, experiences a daily unity with the universe, nature and divine powers. This may be a more authentic and complete existence and paradigm than is possible in industrial society but, like all systems, it is also open to abuse which causes human problems.
A major change, also in the context of addictions and skewed relationships, is the move from traditional, usually rural areas, to the city. In the process people from traditional cultures are losing their spiritual heritage - the deep ecological paradigm of their ancestors.
It is amazing and saddening to work with African psychologists who have been trained overseas and to discover that they know nothing of the spiritual or transpersonal dimension which is so vital to traditional society (and for which we, the people of Africa, have such a natural affinity). I believe that this spirituality, this ability to relate to one another on a transpersonal level, is the essence of Africa just as cool intellectualism is part of Europe and zest and drive are part of North America.
Many people all over the world, and also in South Africa, are now becoming cultural orphans. We are being left without knowledge of our spiritual life and try to fill the void with a culture which comes to us from far away via the mass media. We the people of Africa are all becoming a lost generation, out of touch with ourselves. This is a huge existential vacuum, as Viktor Frankl (1984) would call it, which causes many to become addicted to alcohol and drugs. The collapse of traditional clan and family systems contributes to toxic relationships. The collapse of traditional cultures is perhaps the greatest human problem.
What is the practical implication for people who suffer from deficiencies, addictions and are entrapped in destructive relationships? To recapitulate: people who go through life together, even if they do not see one another frequently, share a "morphic field" or "mind". As Rabkin (1984) writes: "what we call our mind, is made up of several individuals". "Mind" is here not an individual matter, it is something shared by a group.
Each person with whom one makes friends or whom one invites into one's life, becomes part of this mind, this "field". It is therefore important to be careful about inviting someone into the group and mind. Paul is very clear that he will not allow everyone into the congregation, into the "Christ mind".
An addiction then, just like any other habit, is not an individual matter - it is something which everyone who shares life with that person partakes of and participates in. In this respect life is like a dance - whether they like it not, all have to dance. Only through knowledge and insight and concerted action can a group, a family, change the tune but always everyone has contributed in some way, positively or negatively.
On a larger scale, everyone in a large organisation, like a congregation or business, for example, is part of the "field", the "mind",of that organisation. One might even, a la Eugene Marais, talk of the "soul (energy field) of the organisation". Paul called it the "Christ mind" which should be in every member of the congregation. What it means, is that when there are problems, everyone is part of it, whether they know it or not. Consciously or unconsciously we exist as one on a certain level. We resolve problems and become rehabilitated, for example, or we create problems and become part of an addiction even while we are apparently not involved.
It is also in this unity, this oneness that we pray. There is, as we shall discuss in chapter 48, no distance in prayer (Robberts,1974) for we are living in the same reality. Each one of us is a drop in the lake and each one should be aware of his or her contribution to the whole. One should also take care who joins in for one drop falling in, one stone cast into the lake, effects the whole lake.
Now one may ask: "if this is true of a large group, are all the members of a family not one with the addict in spirit/mind/energy field? Is it not necessary that they all change their mind and thereby their energy field/spirit? “ If they do not, they may draw one another into the problem again. Of what use is it then to send one member for rehabilitation while the others remain unchanged?
Is this not what is meant in Mat 3:2: "change your mind for the kingdom is near" and in Rom. 12:2: "be renewed by the renewal of your mind"?
What about the co-dependent? From a certain point of view this is not new. We know about the co-dependent and the influence of friends and social networks. What is being added here, is that these truths also apply on another level, on another dimension, which we may call the "fourth dimension" of our lives, where we are all connected to one another. We are one in everything in this dimension. It is only the way in which it is expressed in our bodies and behaviour which makes it seem as though we are separate. We may in this sense say that the co-dependent is the mirror image, the other half, of the dependant person, the addict, and just as deeply in trouble at all levels of life.
The practical implications - what to do? This is a major question and covers the whole spectrum of behaviour traditionally reserved for religion. Here only a few ideas can be shared but the whole topic will be discussed again in chapter 48.
The first step is simply to know that this fourth dimension is real. Is there really anybody who did not think so, or did not at least suspect that there was more to life than just the three-dimensional material world? Thinking of a four-dimensional is not new, spiritual world, a transpersonal world of "mind". It became strange and mysterious because for the past 200 years it has been forbidden, in the name of "science", to know about the invisible, immeasurable, immaterial aspect of reality. Now the scientific perspectives are changing and making place for this reality which cannot be measured or quantified. As a matter of fact, these days physics has a lot to offer theology in terms of insight into the multidimensional nature of reality.
To use our simile again, it means that we do not have to look for the lake. We are already in the water. In other words, we are already living in a complete multidimensional physical-spiritual reality. What it may mean for the person with a problem is that (like the people in the stories) one has to find oneself and one's place and goals in life (and also the people with whom one ought to be spending life) in spiritual or transpersonal terms also.
Secondly, we are constantly creating and recreating our reality with our words and thoughts and imagination. What you see and experience in life, is what and how you (and your people or family) think and imagine. This is not the whole truth but is a very important part of the truth. Reality can be changed to a large extent by the group changing the words and thoughts they use, and by each one using his or her imagination constructively. But, and this is very important, the playing fields must first be levelled, one must first give oneself a better chance to use the imagination and intelligence successfully by calming the body and thoughts with a balanced diet, a balanced life style and enough self knowledge to take the right supplements and medication, if required.
As Napoleon Hill writes in his book Think and Grow Rich, a very important task in life is to take hold of your mind and direct it successfully to the goals you choose. In the same book he also describes the importance of having one or two people who share the same creative dream. If an addict and the co-dependent can begin sharing the same constructive dream for their life, it could be a major step forward.
It is, however, at the same time important to realise that the first person to take care of and think constructively about, is oneself. "Love Thy neighbour as Thy self" is the Great Commandment. Deidre, Dries, Graham, Karel, Rocco, Wilhelm, all the heroes and heroines of our stories who achieved success, had to find their own identity and their own place in life first. Some, like Rev. Leon, found it consciously on the spiritual level while others do not mention it explicitly.
Thirdly, life is a team game. If each one in a family (or the people going through life together) knows and appreciates his and her own needs and desires and is allowed to satisfy them with respect, life can become more constructive and satisfying. Then the morphic field, the mind of the family or group, becomes more constructively organised and can "make visible" this positive approach to life, also in behaviour, also in prayer.
Fourthly, prayers and especially prayers for forgiveness, can be powerful and constructive agents for change.
One rule for effective prayer is to pray away from oneself (Robberts, 1974). A tap does not try to fill itself with water. When you have a problem, pray for someone with a similar problem - this starts the energy flowing through your life and your mind/spirit/field (and mind includes the people going through life with you) like water flows through a tap.
Prayers for forgiveness mean forgiving yourself and every one in your life every day. A little sentence like: "I forgive and bless everyone and myself" may be sufficient if truly meant. Forgiveness is so important and powerful because it frees everyone you are praying for from the things and relationships that prevent them from being the persons they ought to be and from doing the things they ought to be doing. Genuine forgiveness creates the possibility for a new beginning. The alternative is often being tied down in an unsatisfying relationship and becoming less and less as a person.
An addict, or someone entrapped in a toxic relationship, needs not first pray for forgiveness for himself or herself, important as this is. One reason is that it easily turns into a guilt trip which is a negative frame of mind. It is more important to pray for the forgiveness of those sharing life with you for they do not know what they are doing to themselves and to you. Contradictory as this may seem, this is taking care of oneself because now a stream of forgiveness begins to flow through you into the whole group. It is doing unto others what you want done unto yourself. So doing, the energy field, the mind, of the group becomes more constructive, to the advantage of everyone. Of course it is important to also pray: "Father, forgive me for I know not what I do" but then it is important to find out what one is doing to oneself and to others and to change.
Fifthly, note how the Pretoriusses and the Nelsons supported one another and how the therapy groups encouraged individuals like Graham and gave him courage to face life again. Family therapy and systems oriented therapies are similarly attuned to using the inherent power of a family.
What, in the sixth place, is being said by implication is that, as we are all connected to one another in many ways and many levels, we ought to treat one another with the same respect with which we treat ourselves. This includes respect in the marriage for real respect for one another is far more important in the long run than the fun and games of a romantic relationship. With such respect and mutual appreciation, the mind and "morphic field' of the marriage and family can become more constructively organised. The same applies to larger groups like business organisations and congregations. Should we not out of this respect also take care to keep unwanted influences out of the group? As Selma Maree says: "pay attention to the friends of your children because they teach one another to use drugs".
The next point is that the Bible says that if your hand bothers you too much, you should chop it off, and if your eye is bothering you, pluck it out. The Bible also says that we may divorce one another (and the literal translation is “to set one another free”) because our hearts are so hard. What this means is that we sometimes have to make a supreme sacrifice, even if we don't have to actually tear out an eye or chop off a hand. This sacrifice might be leaving behind part of oneself in a spiritual or transpersonal sense.
When there is a real desire to change and grow, it usually means that one is beginning to appreciate one's own needs and that one wishes to grow with self-respect and live a normal life. Like Graham Wessels, one can then also change your priorities and goals in life. If the people or the partner with whom one is living are unable or unwilling to change, or in Biblical terms have hardened their hearts, then one needs to give up this relationship or this group, precious as it may be. The known always gives a measure of security even though it may not be satisfying. It can therefore be very difficult to walk out of a destructive relationship, because one is leaving behind part of oneself in a spiritual sense and the thought may be too painful and scary for some.
Personally, I am not convinced that such transpersonal bonds can ever be completely severed and there is always a spiritual pain, a disruption of energy patterns and the flow of energy, at parting. It is important to respect this and allow oneself a period of mourning. Such old bonds can, however, be healed and the pain healed though genuine forgiveness, even if it is one-sided, as discussed above. Some physical distance may help and, according to the experiences of Kurt Viljoen and Deidre Visser, it does help to create new bonds in a new relationship like a group or a constructive friendship in which you can be your true self.
Often a psychotherapeutic group is a relatively neutral group one may allow into one's life and mind because they can become involved in your life and the things you are interested in a constructive manner.
The same could apply to professional groups and clubs where sport or hobbies are practised for these also create the possibility of sharing a constructive mind. In other words: even though such groups are apparently social groups only, yet we have said that there is an invisible fourth dimension to life which is everywhere just as gravity is everywhere. A club or association may therefore be healing on several levels (physical, social and transpersonal or spiritual) without a word actually being said about the pain or problem.
The main thing is to find the people, the group, the club or congregation where you feel appreciated and welcome and you can feel at home and be yourself. This is not only a spiritual or transpersonal or social experience, it a total experience. As we saw in Chapter Two, this experience of "being at home" starts the endorphins in the brain flowing and that brings peace and contentment.
What makes one feel at home? How can the boundaries we create between us disappear without effort so that we feel comfortable with one another and let the energy flow refreshingly? Exactly what we did when we were children - play a little. Is it necessary to always be so serious? There is no verb (and therefore no command) in the New Testament which means "to feel guilty". There is a verb to be happy, to "count it all joy" (James 1:2). The New Testament is a happy book and the word "joy" occurs 66 times.
In his book Playing by Heart, Fred Donaldson writes: "we are seeking the experience of being alive. This seems easy enough. The difficulty is that in order to find it, we must not be afraid of life. Play requires a profound fearlessness with which we can expand ourselves trustingly into the unknown. If we let go, we find in play a source of trust more profound than we had previously imagined" ( 1993, p 148). Then we feel at home with the people with whom we belong and the "hormones of happiness" (such as dopamine) flow freely.
Which is more important - the body or the mind and spirit? There is a tendency, even among religious people, to underestimate the importance of the body and to neglect it as though it were less important than the spirit or the mind. It is not. The spirit is also not more important than the body. Body, mind and spirit are complementary in the Bible - they have different functions but each is important in its own way.
When Paul contrasts "flesh" and "spirit" or "fleshly" and "spiritual", he is usually contrasting two paradigms. The "fleshly" is what we would today call "materialistic" - the idea that money and obedience to the social norms are of primary importance and that everyone should always be happy and healthy (as is discussed in chapter 45). The "spiritual" paradigm is based on the idea that the believer is a complete (body, mind and spirit) person and that God, who is spirit, is the most important factor in life.
In the Bible the spirit, and the spiritual dimension, is a reality, not a mystical wonder world. Jesus, for example said that people should change their mind because the Kingdom is near and also that the Kingdom is "within you" (Luke 17:21). One can seek too far away for spirit and the Kingdom. Is it really possible to distinguish between the body and the spirit in everyday life? Did Jesus ever try to do so? With a few fishes and a couple of loaves of bread, he fed thousands. Where does the invisible, spiritual reality begin and where does the material, physical reality end in such a case?
Why is the material, physical world so important these days? We live in a physical world and our priority has become to know oneself as a body. A major reason is probably because we don't really understand ourselves as bodies. So we have to write big books about chemical imbalances and deficiencies and sources of energy in our food so that we may understand ourselves and function more effectively as whole people, also on the intellectual and spiritual dimensions of life. What happened at Gethsemane when the disciples could not keep up physically? They fell asleep at the critical time. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.
These days we simply need more energy to keep up with the demands of TV, cellphones and computers that need never rest, for example. In a panel discussion on the chronic tiredness syndrome Dr Majid Ali (1997) said that chronic fatigue is going to be the dominant disorder of the next century. This, more than anything else, he says, will teach medical doctors about holistic medicine. We may add: this is true of social scientists too.
The Body, Spirit and Communication
One cannot live and communicate in this world without a body. We are bodies so that we may communicate with our world - hear it, feel it, see it, taste it, explore it, play and work with it.
Without a body, one cannot even communicate with God in the physical world which we know through our senses. In the Bible God always communicates through the senses of the body. He appears in a vision or as a light or a column of smoke. Sometimes a voice is heard.
With a tired and neglected body one cannot be the person God intends one to be. When Elijah, for example, had exhausted himself, burned himself out, in his zeal for the Lord, he crept under a broom bush and prayed for death (1 Kings 18:5). God sent an angel. What did the angel do? He provided a cake baked on hot coals and a pitcher of water. What was used for the first temptation of Jesus? Bread to eat. The body is important to God.
How do we typically treat our bodies? As indicated in chapter 2, everyday we eat neurotoxins, substances which poison our nervous system. According to the Townsend Newsletter for Doctors (1997), The American Psychiatric Association reports that half (50%) of the American population is suffering to some extent from brain chemical imbalances (Axis I disturbances). The rest of the population is not far behind. This situation is due to ordinary food like refined sugars and "junk food" (as well as cigarette smoke, drugs and alcohol). This kind of daily self-poisoning and abuse of the body was unknown to the people of the Bible.
Such biochemical imbalances, and the anxiety and depression they cause, make it difficult to function effectively and to communicate meaningfully on the spiritual/transpersonal level. It makes it difficult to be one's true self on any level. This is why it was stated above that our most pressing priority these days is often to give proper attention to the body and the flow of energy. This applies to our religious life too. The body is so important that in the Bible God always gives attention to the immediate physical needs of people - the hungry are fed, the blind are granted sight, the lame walk. Jesus and the disciples, in fact all the heroes of faith, never bypass the body to give attention to the spirit. An authentic, complete person is a body, mind and spirit. (These are not spare "parts" of a person but the same person viewed from different perspectives).
Why is this transpersonal/spiritual element so important in treatment for psychotherapists and other professionals? First, it is obvious that any factor which influences the outcome of therapy is important. The recognition of such a factor simply makes the treatment paradigm more complete.
Secondly, the inclusion of the spiritual element gives a truer reflection of reality as it is being experienced by us these days. The "mind", "spirit", "fourth dimension”, "transpersonal dimension", "energy field" has once more become a reality in Western culture, whatever word is used to describe it. Ought this aspect of reality not also to be incorporated into our treatment paradigms?
Thirdly, in the process of treatment, every professional for a while shares the flow of life with the person in all his or her relationships. With every therapy the professional, that is, the psychotherapist, the doctor, the nurse, the social worker, the dietician, becomes part of the reality of the person and his network, also in the spiritual or transpersonal dimension. Remember: "what we call mind” is made up of “several individuals" (Rabkin, 1984). In the process of therapy the professional becomes one of those individuals making up the 'mind' or 'field' of the client.
The client and the co-dependent also become people contributing to the "mind" or "field" of the therapist and his or her network. The therapeutic relationship is in itself a new network and what we are describing is an important aspect of what is known in psychoanalysis as "transfer".
The psychotherapist, as the person most conscious of this process, has a dual task - to be part of the client's reality and network but also to be the anchor in consensually validated, "non addicted" reality.
As anchor, as representative of social reality, the therapist uses all his skills and knowledge and himself as a person to enable the client to grow in this social reality. Whether he knows it or not, the therapist is always involved as a complete person on all levels - physical, intellectual, social and transpersonal. It makes the process easier and more manageable when the therapist is aware that he is involved in such a manner, and is also aware of what is happening to "us" in therapy. Not that the therapist is always the strongest person in the therapeutic network or "mind" or "field" - the client, the co-dependent or another member of the family often provides the energy and insight to move therapy along significantly and to be of therapeutic value to the therapist as a person.
Look how overwhelmed Marietta de Beer was by the problems of others! By not taking care of himself, Rev. Leon exhausted himself for the sake of his parishioners in the name of "love". He does not specifically say that it was a spiritual process but he does say that he could recover himself when he found new peace and strength on the spiritual level. Like dr Jacques, he gained the intellectual insight that he had to look after himself physically, mentally and spiritually also in his family life. What really impressed him was how well his parishioners accepted and respected this.
Often the help and healing patients get from professionals is due to this invisible transpersonal level of mind and spirit, even though nothing is said about it in therapy. It is simply accepted as part of "the relationship" (more is said about the "healing touch" in the chapter on the ecological perspective).
Because this aspect of life is so unknown and unconscious in our culture, one can often pray: "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do, even to themselves". It does, however, makes the process of healing easier when people understand that they can help themselves by being positive in their thinking and imaging about themselves and others on all levels of our existence. This is part of the empowerment to grow by being "renewed by the renewal of your mind", as Paul writes (Rom. 12:2).
Why are the intellect and rational reasoning important? For some 200 years Western man believed in the triumph of logic and rational man. "It's all in the mind" ("mind" meaning "intellect" or "thinking" in this instance) was a popular saying. It meant that with rational thinking and a purposeful will anything could be healed. We don't believe that anymore. Our outlook on life, our paradigm, has changed, not the least because of the mass of new information we have about ourselves, as we discussed in the first two chapters. Rosa Slabbert expresses the empty feeling many people now experience because we have lost our intellectual certainty and our faith in rational thinking.
“Let's start at the beginning", she says, "so that we can get a picture of where I am now. You know, it is like a tunnel or a window and the curtain is drawn to one side and I look out and I see ... here's something that needs a name. It is something that doesn't seem right to me".
An Intellectual Vacuum.
We are looking at life through an open window and we don't know what we are seeing. We don't have words for our experiences. We live in an intellectual vacuum.
Look around in a bookshop. Here and there are the writings of scientists who try capture our biological, spiritual and intellectual world with words. In the social sciences, including philosophy, psychology and theology, there are mainly revamped versions of Western thought from the post World War Two era. Often enough these are simply the revamped works of the original authors. Old ideas in new books look nice and shiny, but they are signs of intellectual bankruptcy. They are empty words. They say nothing to our hearts. We have heard it all... over and over. Is there nothing that expresses us and our world? Is there nothing that speaks to us of our reality? As Wilhelm Stander says: "you know, one doesn't get a message any more, nowhere.... I seek, but I don't find".
We are no longer living in the 1960's. We and our world have changed totally. Our view of man, our knowledge of human behaviour and our treatment methods have changed in the last 30 years.
For example: our world has been radically changed, in peace and in war, by chemical substances. Is it only drug addicts who don't know how to cope with this new chemical world? Do we understand ourselves as biochemical beings and do we know how to use our new chemical capabilities effectively and meaningfully? According to the statistics of the number of addicts and their treatment, apparently not. Do our sociologists and theologians, psychologists and philosophers have a clear idea of who and where we now are in life? It is not a question of adding a little biochemistry and physiology - our whole world, we ourselves, has changed and, like Rosa, we are standing at a window looking at something that needs to be named, needs to be captured in words so that we may understand.
We all have a need to understand, a need to know ourselves and this is why the intellect and rational thinking are important - as tools to understand ourselves as complete persons. In spite of the information explosion there are still major gaps in our knowledge as this information has not yet been integrated into a comprehensive view of man and behaviour. One of the questions frequently asked these days is: "what is spirit?" Another is: "why do things happen?"
Spirit is not an Intellectual Exercise.
It was perhaps to be expected that the emphasis on rational thinking would lead to answers to these questions which confuse intellect and spirit. Only a culture which places such emphasis upon rational thinking that it considers "mind" to be a cognitive function of the brain, is capable of reducing spirit to an intellectual activity.
The result is that scientists now need to create new names like "energy fields", "fourth dimension" and "transpersonal" to avoid the stereotyped views associated with "mind" and "spirit". New words are needed to bring new life into our understanding of our experience of ourselves as "mind" and "spirit".
The search for meaning, for example, is not a sign of spirituality or a spiritual action. Neither is the setting of goals for the future nor internalising social norms. These are intellectual actions mediated mainly by the prefrontal lobes and the speech areas of the brain. Such intellectual activities are undoubtedly abstract and dependant upon unseen biochemical processes in the body and brain but they are not "spiritual". These kinds of questions and answers (and in fact, the very reason they are asked) is dependant, not upon the mind or spirit, but upon the social demands of the day. They are the verbalisation of our socially conditioned behaviour. As society changes, so will these questions and answers. The search for meaning is the verbalisation of the meaninglessness of the factory culture for human beings. It is an example of industrialized man dumping his problems on the rest of the world.
Does the experience of spirit not differ from thinking and planning? Does it not lie on another dimension and operate according to different laws? When Peter, as a rational man, looked at the waves while walking on the water to Jesus, he sank. As a spiritual person of faith and trust, that same Peter could walk on the same water. This is not a question of meaning or understanding, it is a matter of different abilities (or spiritual gifts) and learning to use them purposefully. Examples similar to Peter walking on the water can be found in every religion in the world for spirit is an aspect of our human reality. Religion and culture are simply the pragmatic ways we learn to cope with reality and to express it in word and deed. So people in all cultures learn to use their talents and gifts to heal people (as is also discussed in chapter 35).
To try to explain such experiences and abilities in terms of the natural sciences is a prostitution of those sciences - it is an inappropriate endeavour. The natural sciences are not designed to study such phenomena. The natural sciences (as popularly understood) which tries to prove the existent of spiritual and mental phenomena are based on our physical senses which are excellent for exploring the three-dimensional world. To try to understand the fourth dimension with this three dimensional science is like trying to measure light with a measuring tape.
How important, then, are the intellect and rational thought? Our intellectual and verbal abilities are important and also unimportant, certainly vastly overrated.
In our communication, the words we actually say contribute some 7% to the message received, according to Mehrabian (1971) and the rest of the message is conveyed by body language and tone of voice.
The Dutch psychiatrist, JH van den Berg, writes (1971) that knowledge and insight as such never help in psychotherapy. Knowledge is useful only when it is part of our human relationships because, he says, it is knowledge that enriches the relationship. It is the relationship that makes the difference and is therapeutic.
This is also the answer to our intellectual vacuum and our intellectual needs - that we become aware of our intellectual emptiness and hunger and fill the void with appropriate and meaningful ideas. Is it not necessary that we all work together in the creation of a new paradigm, a new frame of reference, so that we may gain insight into ourselves and communicate effectively with one another? The creation of a paradigm within which we can live comfortably is a most important intellectual exercise.
Now I Understand
Mere knowledge is, however, not spiritual and doesn’t help. What helps, is the "aha" experience of "now I understand, now my personal perceptions and actions change", as the story of Wilhelm Stander so graphically illustrates.
To get a grip on life, it is necessary that we consciously and rationally understand what is happening to us. In the chaos of experience it is necessary to get a broad picture, a bird's eye view, of what, why and how things happen. This is particularly true when one is in the grip of some overpowering experience like addiction or a loss of a job or of a loved one. With such knowledge and understanding, people and families, can work purposefully towards a common goal. With such a vision the future opens up and one can once more see opportunities for happiness.
In this respect a good theory backed up by reality is the most practical thing there is. Wilhelm tells that there was a moment when he understood the mechanics of his alcoholism and was more motivated to help himself by cooperating in treatment. Graham began to live more positively when he realised that he himself was important in reconstructing his life. The light went on for Karel when he realised that alcohol was not the solution but the problem in his life. Rosette spent years looking for solid information so that she could help her husband.
Why me? It is necessary for everyone to find an answer to the question: "why me?" or: "what is happening to me?". We need to know why things happen. Dries Joubert states this need clearly when he says: " there is a problem and it isn't me, I want to know what the problem is". Paul writes to the Romans: " the good that I want to do, I do not do". Rosa says: "there's something that needs a name, it's something that doesn't seem right to me".
A meaningful answer to such questions gives one the courage to continue with life and to get a firmer grip in life.
How many views of life are there? There are many answers to the question: "why do things happen?". Each answer is like a pair of spectacles through which we look at life. If we use the economic spectacles, we see money problems and financial solutions. Through psychological spectacles we see psychological explanations and through the scientific spectacles we see rational explanations.
Each profession and branch of science has its own spectacles or point of view but they all look at the world with the same three-dimensional perspective. The person who believes in God looks at the same world and sees an additional dimension to a situation. Faith gives four-dimensional vision. As we have seen, this fourth dimension has many names but the outstanding feature for the believer is that the presence of God may be perceived everywhere and all other causal factors are secondary.
Now, intellectual conceptions and verbal descriptions are not the same as a spiritual experience but they do help us to communicate our experience and understanding of spiritual or transpersonal events to one another to a certain extent. Words freeze events so that we may look at them more calmly. It is like a baker calmly reading a recipe for a cake but not for a moment thinking that he is eating the cake. Yet we read about religion and spirit and think that is being religious or spiritual.
So here one intellectual framework or pair of spectacles is offered for the understanding of events in our lives which may lead to easier communication.
For the believer of every faith and religion there is only one reason why things happen - God. The presence and action of God is the reality behind the three-dimensional reality, the unseen in the seen. We may liken the presence of God to the law of gravity in every movement or the oxygen in every cell. What we call "spiritual" is the fourth dimension in the three-dimensional reality.
God is everywhere and everywhere is here, not there. Yet, if we look through the economic spectacles (or the psychological or the natural scientific) we cannot see God. Like sunglasses, such spectacles are made to let through some aspects of reality and to filter out everything else. We cannot look through two spectacles simultaneously. That does not mean to say that a scientist, psychologist or an economist, for example, cannot also put on the spectacles of faith but one views events, such as the crisis in the money markets, through one pair of spectacles at a time. Then the economist sees market forces at work through his economic spectacles but can also gain an additional perspective by looking at the same events through other spectacles and perceiving the actions of God. Unfortunately our sciences have been split up into many branches or paradigms and spectacles so that we have to consciously look at the same events from different points of view.
When, for example, we look at events through the spectacles of socially validated ideas of "right" and "wrong", we may easily become confused. From this perspective we cannot understand why people should be sick or die or why there are wars, drought, natural disasters, famine and the like. We cry: why should some people become addicted, why are some so unhappy? Such things are "wrong" according to our three-dimensional social point of view or paradigm (as is discussed at length in chapter 45). These preconceived ideas of right and wrong act like a pair of sunglasses which filter out the reality of the fourth dimension and make it impossible to see God in any situation. But through the spectacles of faith, the religious paradigm, we can see God in action everywhere, all the time. This is the most basic statement of faith.
We believe that there is a God and that God is good. Everything that happens is caused by God or is allowed by God to happen. Not even a hair of your head can fall without God knowing it (Matt. 10:30). Therefore: everything that happens, is good for God can do or allow only the good. Mervin Carrothers tells in his books Prison to Praise and The power of Praise how he spent a lifetime learning the truth that God is everywhere and that God is the good in every situation even though often it is extremely difficult to believe this. Even the time he spent in prison (which most people would not consider a good thing) was a constructive event for it was the beginning of his conscious relationship with God. Carrothers writes that positive thinking means that one is determined to be positive in spite of the situation, faith is being positive because of the situation.
Believers simply do not live according to what Paul calls the "fleshly" paradigm which we may call the "physical or sensory paradigm", that is, the socially agreed ideas of what are right and what is wrong based on the three-dimensional, "scientific" view of the world. They simply don't think that way. Adam and Eve did. Once they had eaten from the tree of knowledge, they thought they knew right and wrong and became very ashamed of themselves as God had created them. They thought they knew right from wrong better than God and the net result was that they lost paradise.
Believers look at events from a four-dimensional, spiritual point of view or paradigm and see God in action. And to repeat, this is often very difficult to do and it takes a lot of practice to do so. In fact, it is an ongoing learning experience.
The believer doesn't wear the scientific spectacles of three dimensional "possible" and "impossible" either. Can one, for example, see Peter walking on the water using these spectacles?
The believer doesn't use biochemical, genetic or psychological explanations as the foundation of understanding behaviour. Important and valid as they are, such explanation is only part of reality. For the believer there is some constructive purpose and will in the genetic inheritance, in the biochemical make-up of a person and in the social learning he goes through, for example. This purpose and will is the divine will of God which we cannot understand in terms of social definitions of right and wrong. We can also not understand the actions of God solely in terms of rational and scientific descriptions of what is possible or impossible.
The same applies to addictions, dependency upon chemical substances and toxic relationships - they are not in the first instance purely biochemical problems, the result of genetic inheritance or psychological or medical problems - there is also a spiritual or transpersonal element which involves the person's whole network as discussed above and in chapter 46.
Behind and around and in these obvious three-dimensional factors a huge spiritual battle is usually also raging. Ask the people themselves. Read their stories from this perspective. A certain measure of knowledge of all these aspects of behaviour is necessary to gain a grip on life once more and to be able to dream constructively again. It makes a great difference when you realise that you have allowed yourself to become too tired and need an energy supplement rather than to continue struggling with yourself in ignorance, forcing yourself along everyday, fighting your body and thinking that God has forgotten you.
If all the dimensions of behaviour are not included in a diagnosis, the problem may be sought in the wrong place and the addiction, for example, can become a red herring.
The idea that God isn't interested in you, is also a false diagnosis because it places the emphasis on the wrong place or dimension. With an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment so that you have more energy, you can express your faith more easily too. Often people then say that they pray more effectively and have made contact with God again. An important part of the reason is that they have the energy to focus their attention in prayer, once more.
God gives attention to all aspects of behaviour, including the need for energy. For example: when there was a drought, God ordered crows to bring Elijah bread. He did not feed him abstract ideas or expect him to live by faith alone. Elijah also did not blame himself for the drought and think that God was angry with him. The same applies to Jesus. When people were hungry, he gave them food to eat.
The body is part of the religious life. In the East whole cultures are organised around this concept. The monks and hermits of Asia can exist and concentrate on religion only because their society will provide them with food. It is part of their culture to give a passing monk a little food and water. In the West such a person would not survive for there are no such religious traditions.
A Growth Process
Accepting the fact that God does and allows everything for our own good, the believer can now begin to understand why some of us have inherited a certain tendency to a biochemical deficiency, why others grow up in difficult families. Part of the growth process is that each person has to find the answer for him and herself (like Selma, Deidre, Wessel and Sandra did) in cooperation with God and other people.
This is a lifelong process. The goal is the development of the person to the whole, mature, complete person he or she was intended to be physically, socially, intellectually and spiritually. In this process one gets to know and understand, through experience, one's strengths and weaknesses and how to manage oneself. Obviously appropriate information is necessary to avoid "misdiagnosing". It is equally useful to have a pair "four dimensional spectacles" to help one understand the spiritual dimension and oneself as a spiritual being.
Sometimes an important part of this growth process is realising that one's own life, with its ups and downs, can have a positive impact upon others. For quite a few of the people whose stories are told in this book, a major motive was the thought that their own suffering and growth would be more meaningful if their story enabled others to understand themselves and their behaviour more fully. We are all connected to one another in one way or another, aren't we?
Who sinned? For the believer there is only one ultimate reality - the presence of God all the time, everywhere. These are the spectacles through which everything is viewed and understood.
The disciples of Jesus look at a man who has been blind since birth (John 9:1) and they see a problem: "who has sinned, this man or his parents?". Jesus looks at the same situation and sees only God in action. "It is not that he or his parents sinned," Jesus answered; “he was born blind so that God's power might be displayed in curing him". (The Revised English Bible).
In this four dimensional world, in contrast to the three-dimensional world of economy and the social and natural sciences, the believer is willing to see the presence of God even in a situation which, when viewed from the three-dimensional perspective only, is apparently a tragedy.
James (1:2) quite clearly states: "my friends, whenever you have to face all sorts of trials, count yourselves supremely happy in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure" (Revised English Bible, 1989). Rosa Slabbert and Selma Maree certainly experienced this.
But what is the purpose? That we may grow to be mature and complete people. If someone needs wisdom, James writes further (verse 5), "he should ask God and it will be given him, for God is a generous giver who neither begrudges nor reproaches anyone". The humble believer should be proud of being exalted and the rich man of being brought low. "Happy is the man who stands up to his trial! Having passed the test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised those who love him" (verse 13).
In contrast to this, nowhere in the New Testament does it say that one should feel guilty or bad about oneself. The responsibility of the believer is always to be constructive in the relationship towards God, self and the neighbour. The responsibility is to remain part of the solution (as Karel Cilliers also explains). John sees this as abiding in God (1 Joh. 4:16).
The same point of view is given in 1 Thes. 5:16. "Always be joyful; 17. pray continuously; 18. give thanks whatever happens for this is what God wills for you in Christ Jesus". (One may ask here in passing - when one is always thankful, when is there time to feel guilty?).
This is not an unreasonable expectation. The constructive point of view James calls "joy", is based on the perception that, whatever happens, even if it looks like a tragedy, it is a sign of the presence of God, as we have pointed out above. Other people, wearing other spectacles, may not understand this. The believer looking at life through four dimensional, "faithful" spectacles, sees the presence and action of God in every situation. Believers come together to share this view of life and to support one another in their view and experience of a more complete reality. In this too we are one. We have the same mind.
Faith Means Empowerment
Does this mean that the believer is now at the mercy of whatever comes his or her way? Quite the opposite. The Good News is that the believer has become a four dimensional person, a spiritual person, able to be a coworker of God who is spirit. The ability to cooperate with God grows with experience and the guidance of more experienced spiritual people. With a growing knowledge of self and a growing understanding of the presence of God, the believer is empowered to work with God with increased responsibility for self. How does one cooperate with God when you are stuck in a toxic relationship or are struggling with an addiction? Peter describes the process in 2 Peter 1:4,5.
One way of cooperating with God is to be truly thankful for what is happening. It doesn't help if it is used as a technique to try and force God to help. It helps when one can say: "God, I don't understand, yet, but I am willing to see You at work and thank You for it". Then one is cooperating to release the power of God into the situation as Jesus did with the man who was born blind. It also creates in one the expectation of constructive change (but see also the discussion on prayer in chapter 48). What did Jesus say before He woke Lazarus from the dead and when He fed thousands? He prayed: "Father, I thank you".
A human being is a powerful being, with or without faith in God. As a coworker of God (2 Cor. 6:1), a believer can therefore be extremely powerful in a situation by cooperating with God in appreciation (thankfulness) of what God is doing rather than trying to do a deal with God to get things the way he wants it to be or thinks is right. Then one is not overwhelmed by the situation but can stay on top of it well enough to manage oneself and the situation constructively. So doing, one remains part of the solution rather than becoming bogged down in the problem.
As I write this, I experience the temptation that many parents share, namely, to feel aggrieved by the fact that my only son is going overseas and may not return. Arguing this way and that with myself does not help much. The only thing that helps is the perception, the belief, that this too is part of God's plan and will work out for the good, even if it is not now pleasant or particularly meaningful. Many families all over the world are experiencing this mass movement of young people to other parts for economic reasons and any one family is a minute item caught up in huge transformations of the world's population. And yet the believer is able to avoid being caught up in chaos by acknowledging the presence and power of God in this whole process, knowing also that to God he or she is not just a minute item but a valued person in his network. This attitude does keep the stress levels in the situation lower than they would be. But, such stressful situations take a lot of energy, as Selye (1976) pointed out, and it is important to ensure that one's biological energy levels are kept at an optimum level.
The major question in a difficult situation is often:"what did I do?". Our freedom of choice, financial power and social mobility also brings the responsibility for our actions. Then we wonder whether we are cooperating with God or hindering the process. Mervin Carrothers has a calming thought in this regard. He says in effect: God is always in control. God isn't there to clean up our mistakes. Even those choices we consider mistakes, were made with His knowledge. He was not powerless to do something about those choices, He allowed for good. The secret is to relax and get to know God even better so that we may cooperate more knowingly and consciously. Even in this, we should not let our three-dimensional idea of right and wrong get in the way. It can make one very unhappy - needlessly.
May easy, be easy? For the believer the question: "why do things happen?” always has a positive answer even though, as Paul points out several times, it is not always easy or pleasant. Richard Wurmbrand (1969), writing in Eastern Europe under Russian rule, has the point of view that the purpose of life for the believer is to suffer. Often one is tempted to agree with him. Marie Krige also says that "difficult is easy" for then one has to really put some effort into finding God and then you do. When life is easy, you don't put in the effort and don't bother finding God.
Many people, however, feel that something, also religion, is not good if it isn't difficult, if there isn't suffering. They can cope with problems but find solutions and success quite difficult to deal with.
Paul, however, writes that he has been shipwrecked, given 39 lashes by his opponents 5 times, been in danger often and then there is also the heavy responsibility for the churches. Yet he says: "I am happy to boast in my weakness because then the power of Christ will rest upon me... for when I am weak, then I am strong". (2 Cor. 12:9, 10). God's power, he says (verse 8), shows up best in weak people. The purpose of the religious life is not to suffer but to manifest the power of God. These days too, the believer cannot boast in personal power, rational thinking or own abilities, only in the presence of God which shines through our actions (often to one's own surprise). For some this is too easy to believe - they want to do it themselves. They want to tell God how to do it.
This point of view, our paradigm is not primarily concerned with intellectual insight or words of wisdom. It is about a lifestyle in which the person, even under difficult circumstances can actively choose to be part of the constructive, edifying power in the universe or to be part of the chaotic and ultimately destructive forces (as described in the science of chaos).
The conception that God is working everything for the good is also part of a paradigm which can bring understanding and a renewed grip upon life. It helps one to grow in constructive self-management and self-responsibility as Graham and Wilhelm, among others, also experienced.
Why do things happen? Why did all these things happen to the folk in the stories? If you read the stories from this angle, you will see that each one has already found part of the answer and are still gaining in understanding (even though the complete answer is still unclear as though we are looking into a mirror through a dark glass as Paul says). He adds: one day we will know all. In the meantime people become discouraged when they cannot find an answer which fits their own situation.
Why become discouraged? "Why do people with problems lose faith and say there is no God?", someone asks.
"Because they become more realistic", another answers.
"Yes, they realise that their old conceptions and perceptions of God are simply not true”. God is not going to give the answer we want just to please us. One should actually be pleased when a person comes to the realisation that he does not understand God for it means that the person is ready to develop a more mature perception of God and religion, if the situation is appropriately dealt with.
"What do you mean?"
When we are children, we may learn that God is like father and mother. They pick you up when you cry. Then you can go and play again. As people go through life, there may be difficult experiences when nothing goes according to one's needs and wishes. Then people don't understand this and they become anxious and angry because God isn't on call all the time. They reject this "father and mother-idea", this "Father Christmas-idea" of God and say: "I don't believe in God any more". Actually they do still want to believe in God, otherwise they wouldn't be angry with Him. They are, quite correctly, rejecting their misconceptions about God and religion.
Other people learn as children that they have to work for love and acceptance. You have to earn it, they believe. They naturally also believe this to be true of God. They try so hard to be acceptable to God and man. They do all the "right" things but often it doesn't work. They don't realise that they may be trying too hard and that God does not set such (socially determined) conditions for love and acceptance. One has to change one's mind and realise that God is here, everywhere, in any case, no matter what you do or don't do. One cannot earn God's acceptance - you have relaxed, change your mind and realise the truth of it. Often it is just too easy to believe. But, because their hard work and strenuous efforts don't work, they are puzzled and angry and say: "God doesn't care".
Unbelief and Unrealistic Intellectual Creations.
So people have all kinds of unrealistic ideas about God and faith, about what they think the Bible says but which actually are the products of the Middle Ages and the factory culture, as we have discussed above and also in the first two chapters and in the ecological perspective (chapter 35). When they get rid of these "religious" ideas, they are actually in a better position to become realistic about God. Paul would probably say they have done with baby food and are now ready for solid food.
This could also sometimes be the reason why God allows people to become entrapped in toxic relationships and addictions - so that they may reach "rock-bottom" and realise that there must be a better way of living. Then they are in a position to change their mind and start looking for the truth. Is this the reason why the prostitutes and the sinners (but not the "good folk") heeded the call of John the Baptist and Jesus?
A tale is told of a monk who comes to his Guru. "What", he asks, "is the secret of unity with God?".
"The desire for unity", answers the guru.
The monk then asks: "what is desire?".
The master pushed the monk's head into a bucket of water, almost drowning him.
What did the monk think of while his head was under water? There was only one desire - to breathe. The same single minded desire applies to religion.
To Remain Focussed Requires Spectacles.
In difficult times, it is easier to remain focussed and single minded. Obviously, when life is pleasant and easy, it is more difficult. Then our heads are out of the bucket, so to speak, and we think of other things. As the parable of the Sower teaches, the pleasures and the cares of the world diffuse our thoughts and desires. We forget about God or at least we are not so focussed on Him.
So, an important secret of the religious life is to remain focussed upon the presence of God when life is pleasant. Then one may keep on believing even when one can walk on the waves in a storm or feed thousands from a few fishes. Then it is Ok to let God be God and let Him turn problems into miracle solutions. Then one can truly "always be thankful and happy". Such satisfaction is a sign of the Kingdom.
But, for some people, it does take a change of mind to realise that God is also to be found in the satisfaction of our needs and desires and not only in problems. Many of us have, however, learned that "easy is difficult" and "difficult is easy", in religion. We can be thankful when God manages situations in such a way that we have to throw away our old beliefs and find new spectacles with which to focus on the divine presence in life.
When We Don't Have the Same Mind.
Someone wrote that growth in faith means unlearning just about everything you ever learned about God as a child. This process of changing your mind and relearning reality is made more difficult when the people around you don't understand what is going on and become upset. Then an opportunity for growth may be lost, albeit only for a while. Wilhelm Stander has the story.
"I just began to think that there isn't something like God. Now you cannot discuss this with anybody. I mentioned it to my niece and she became angry with me. She said: 'you are wrong'. You are going the wrong way. Pull yourself together.” The psychologist later told me how to find an answer for myself".
This process of "shedding your skin" and growing in faith can occur several times in a lifetime as one gains in spiritual experience and develops a more complete and comprehensive point of view. Then the previous ideas and conceptions become too narrow and constricting to explain one's experiences. Then other explanations and understanding and "deeper" relationships are needed. There should, in other words, ideally be other people who know and express, in their everyday lives, a point of view, a paradigm, a framework within which one may grow in mutual cooperation and unity with God. As the New Testament teaches, the more experienced spiritual persons need to guide the more inexperienced and all should help one another to grow to maturity and completion, as commanded in Matt 5:48. The literal translation is: "be complete and mature in your behaviour as your Father is in heaven".
This does not mean that one should leave one's own faith or denomination. Every concept in a religion can have so many meanings that, as one grows in understanding, one can find a new wealth of meaning in the very words which previously had no meaning or even had a negative meaning for you. Sometimes it is the very teacher one criticized who is able to open up new depths of understanding when one is ready, in oneself, to look with new eyes and hear with new ears. It is better to find new truths in the paradigm one grew up with than to try to assimilate a totally different point of view.
Firstly, it saves a lot of the energy which will be required for adjustment to a new "culture" and it prevents "culture shock". Secondly, it prevents the stress and strain of trying to explain what you are going through to loved ones who do care about you. We are part of a transpersonal network.
We are one, and if you are feeling the need for renewal, others in the network are probably, perhaps more unconsciously, going through the same experience. Is it not better that we go through such an experience together, albeit with some strife and strain, than to disrupt ourselves by going off on our own? Wherever we go, we will have an effect, on many levels, on all the others in our network.
One is not tied down to a spiritual or transpersonal network and one does have a responsibility towards oneself to grow as an individual where you are and to save yourself the stress of breaking away. If it becomes necessary to break away, then that too needs to be done.
Thirdly, then, one needs to answer the question: “why was I born into these circumstances, what good is there for me to discover, right where I am"?
What we need, to a greater or lesser extent, these days are intellectual maps or mental maps (paradigms, spectacles) which indicate the direction to grow in and which allow healthy, comprehensive relationships to develop. For many people, however, this is not as important as meaningful rituals and rules to guide them. Is this not meaningful too? Who says words are most important to everyone?
Christianity, Culture and Reality.
After a lecture someone asked: “you have explained this fourth-dimension in terms of Christianity and the Christian Bible. I live in a different culture, what does it mean to me"?
The answer is that the body, mind, spirit, the world, the universe is real, are aspects of reality, wherever one lives. The name of this chapter is "universal dreams" and the way we all are, body, mind and spirit, is the stuff dreams are made of.
To understand ourselves and our world, we give names to different aspects of reality. One should not, as explained in chapter 46, be seduced by words. Words are hot air, not reality.
As Erik Erikson explains in his book Childhood and Society, each culture can cope with only a small part of the total reality. Each culture teaches the children what the problems of life are and then teaches them how to solve those problems. This total teaching program is called a paradigm. Each and every paradigm is incomplete but always include the realities of the physical (three-dimensional) world and the spiritual (fourth) dimension. The exact words and the complexity of the explanations will differ but never the reality they refer to.
So, to answer the question: the realities touched on in this description are universal and should be respected in every paradigm. The particular words used to describe these realities are important for they carry the wealth of one's cultural and personal life experiences. Words and paradigms should, however, not be made into stumbling blocks which prevent mutual cooperation, understanding and respect. Ultimately each person needs to find these truths for him and herself. The best place to start, is the paradigm one grew up with.
Information and Psychotherapy
It is, however, also true that our world is constantly changing, that most of us are suffering from "culture shock", and that we are all looking for new intellectual and mental guidelines.
In the 1960's and 1970's, for example, it was possible for a therapist to be quiet and be with the client because everybody knew what was right, what was wrong and what to expect tomorrow. We lived in a known and structured world.
These days, it is becoming more and more important to be with the client and also give information, for example, about the biological basis of behaviour, like addictions. The therapist gives such information, not as a teacher, but as the expert in his subject (van den Berg, 1971). The new reality is that "the subject", has now become very comprehensive for all the helping professions and encompasses virtually every aspect of life, including biochemistry and the fourth or spiritual and transpersonal dimension.
Doesn't everyone, psychotherapists, ministers of religion, doctors, nurses, social workers, now need a comprehensive paradigm to tell us what our clients are saying? Don't we need to know these things so that we may understand our clients on all levels and be quietly with them instead of becoming anxious and making them keep quiet, as happened to Wilhelm Stander and his family?
"All this knowledge is for the sake of the therapist", prof. B. Schlebusch of the university of Pretoria used to tell his students. "The psychotherapist needs the knowledge so that he can understand what is going on in therapy and keep quiet so that the client can get on with his therapy without interference from the therapist".
Intellectual knowledge in itself has very little therapeutic value, perhaps some entertainment value. So it does not help to simply give information about the various aspects of reality such as the biochemistry of addiction. Clients need to come to the point where they can personalise the information and realise that it concerns them, their body, their mind, their spirit. They need not come to "rock bottom" but they must come to the point where they say: "now I understand".
It took Wilhelm Stander two years before he achieved such insight, without anyone trying to convince him. When he was ready, a paradigm, an intellectual framework within which he could grow, was in place. There were also other people, other clients, in the system who had gone through the process themselves and who knew where in the process he was. They could give him the space and the knowledge to grow in understanding and as a person.
They could grow together on all levels, with or without words. Then he was able to look through those spectacles and say: "now I understand".
Where would folk like Wilhelm be without an appropriate intellectual paradigm and a network of experienced people (both professional and in the therapeutic groups)? Supplements are required in treatment and also a balanced diet, medication, information and experienced professionals and laymen, but not one of them alone is sufficient. We are multidimensional beings, we respond well to multidimensional assistance and we need multidimensional relationships to grow to completion, to triumph in our trial.
The understanding brought by personal experience and insight is the map with which we go through life. We look through the spectacles to make sense of our existence. In the intellectual vacuum we are living in, it is more than important to have conscious answers for the situations we encounter so that we may recognise our needs and satisfy ourselves on all levels of our existence. Such a map is also necessary to prepare ourselves for an uncertain future, to find meaning in life and to manage ourselves effectively every day of our lives.
The creation and development of such an effective framework is an intellectual task requiring the cooperation of philosophers, psychologists, social and natural scientists, theologians, all of us, for we are all in it together.
Psychotherapists can also not remain intellectually outside the relationship while managing techniques and listening - there is a need for the creation of this new paradigm for their clients to grow into. Cognitive structuring can often be an important process in therapy and then the therapist needs to know what he thinks about life.
Finally, the transpersonal experience of spirit, life as a four dimensional person sharing a common mind with others, is very different from reading about it in theory. It is the same as the difference between reading about eating and actually tasting the food. Ultimately, each person needs to get it all together to live and enjoy oneself as a complete individual in a comprehensive network.