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Religion and Psychoactive Sacraments:
An Entheogen Chrestomathy

Thomas B. Roberts, Ph.D. and Paula Jo Hruby, Ed.D.
Author Index | Title Index

The Human Core of Spirituality: Mind as Psyche and Spirit

Helminiak, Daniel A. (1996).
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press

ISBN:0-7914- 2950-4 paperback
0-7914-2949-0 hardcover

Description: hardcover, xvi + 307 pages.

Contents: List of figures, preface, 19 chapters in 5 parts: 1. Introduction, 2. Spirit, 3. Psyche, 4. Human Integration, 5. Conclusion, references, index.

Excerpt(s): Spirituality is supposed to relate to the deepest meaning of humanity. So what you think of spirituality actually depends on how you answer this question: What is a human being? The title of this book suggests its answer to this question: there is a core of spirituality that is common to all people just because they are human. Spirituality is part and parcel of being a human being. Why? Because human mind is double, and one dimension of human mind is actually spirit. Humans are spiritual by nature. Of course, we humans are not merely mental but also bodily or organic. This goes without saying. So the proposed answer to the question, What is a human being? is this: a complex of organism, psyche, and spirit. (page 5)

... Still, if spirituality is first and foremost a basic human thing, the various religions must be different ways of expressing human spirituality. And to some extent talk of God is a kind of shorthand way of talking about very elusive spiritual but human matters. In any case, this is the approach presented in this book. The goal is to explain the human core of spirituality apart from talk of God or use of the spiritual vocabulary that comes from the different religions. That is, the goal is to say what spirituality actually is on its own terms. (page 6)

Part 3 treats psyche. It presupposes Lonergan's distinction between consciousness and psyche and relies heavily on Robert Doran's elaboration of psyche within a Lonerganian context. Other generally available psychological knowledge plus insight from my psychotherapy practice and from my LSD experiences as a subject at Maryland Psychiatric Research Center, Spring Grove State Hospital, help fill out the treatment of psyche. A discussion of Carl Jung's theory of the archetypes and a review of Stanislav Grof's research with LSD are included in part 3. The contributions of these major psychological theorists stand in their own right. Here, however, their ideas are borrowed to help explain what psyche, as distinguished from spirit, is like. In addition, discussion of these other theorists also helps to clarify what is unique about the argument of this book.

At this point spirit and psyche may be characterized briefly. Spirit entails self-awareness and so marvel, question, and awe. Human spiritual capacity expresses itself in awareness, insight, understanding, judgment, decision, and self-determination. Insight provides the easiest example. On the other hand, psyche entails images and other mental representations, emotion, memory, and personality structure. Its most obvious expression is in dreaming. (pages 24-25)

Apart from any theist presuppositions, consideration of dynamic human consciousness already provides a meaning for the notion of self-transcendence. Implied in the actualization of dynamic consciousness, self-transcendence is inherent in all human functioning qua human. Self-transcendence is built into human being. Therefore, rather than necessarily involving faith in God, most fundamentally self-transcendence involves "merely" being human.

This understanding transposes self-transcendence from some mysterious, mystical, metaphysical affair into an everyday occurrence, for self-transcendence occurs whenever people are aware, understand, judge, or make decisions. Hence, the spiritual is nothing unusual or esoteric. It is part of every human activity. It is essential to the human as such. This insistence is simply a reiteration of a main theme of this book. (page 118)

The Realms of the "Unconscious"

It is clear that LSD releases in a subject a range of mental phenomena. These are the same kinds of phenomena that psychotherapists and psychiatrists deal with and that religious or spiritual experiences seem to entail. Grof (1976) has catalogued these phenomena under four headings: abstract and aesthetic experiences, psychodynamic experiences, perinatal experiences, and transpersonal experiences. These comprise the "realms of the unconscious" referred to in the title of his first book. These also portray a delineation of the structure of psyche, which is the concern here. (pages 178-179)

... Emotion-laden biases built into psyche keep people from experiencing openly, questioning intelligently, judging reasonably, and choosing responsibly. The structure of psyche prevents the authentic unfolding of spirit. Thus, patterns of dysfunctional behavior persist; human-and spiritual-growth is stymied.

What Grof has described in the LSD session is what Freud called "transference." It goes on in psychotherapy, it goes on in LSD sessions, and it goes on in everyday life. It helps explain how psyche constrains the open-ended functioning of spirit. It helps explain how biases built into psyche prevent human integration and spiritual flowering.

Analyzing the experiences of people who were under the influence of LSD, Grof has been able to highlight the dynamic structure of human psyche: (1) human perceptual capacity is connected to (2) psychodynamic experiences that are entangled with profound (3) perinatal experiences that surround a core of (4) transpersonal experiences. Uncovering processes and mechanisms by which psyche is structured into particular individual configurations, Grof's work also suggests how psyche can be restructured. The ultimate goal of this restructuring is unobtrusive services to the transspatial and transtemporal capacities of dynamic human spirit. (page 186)

In humans, psyche functions as it does because, unlike in other animals, it operates under the influence of spirit. Human psyche is enspirited. So the images of psyche, for example, can express meaning as well as express states of the physiological organism. And the emotions of psyche can indicate values as well as indicate states of comfort or discomfort within the organism. Determining which is which and otherwise deciphering the inherent ambiguity in psyche's symbolic expression is a major difficulty in negotiating the human psyche. Nonetheless, precisely because psyche in humans is enspirited, people are able to reflect on their experience of psyche.

For that reason, from a practical point of view, humans can learn to decipher the images in psyche, to feel and respond appropriately to their emotions, and to recall and reexperience their memories. In the process they not only come to know themselves; they may also be able to restructure themselves. To some extent they can change their habitual patterns of response; they can reform their personalities. When this self-transformation accords with spirit's demand for authenticity, the change is nothing other than an advance in spiritual integration. Thus, psyche and spirit collaborate in the process of spiritual growth. The functioning of psyche (and organism) as well as that of spirit is part of one's spirituality. ...

In terms of "archetypes," Jungian theory even suggests how this structure is formed-around emotion-laden patterns that characterize all human experience, like anima, animus, persona, shadow, and self. LSD research suggests further that the archetypes reside and function at different depths of levels of psyche, for four interrelated "layers" can be delineated: the perceptual, the psychodynamic, the perinatal, and the transpersonal. The process of personal transformation engages these layers one by one in turn. (pages 187-188)

Part 3 on psyche was unable to treat psyche apart from mention of spirit, for human psyche is enspirited. So time and again-treating dreams as meaningful and images and emotions as indicators of value or treating the need for "discernment of spirits" or treating the process of psychotherapy or LSD therapy and spiritual growth-this chapter addresses the interaction of psyche and spirit in the unified human being. (pages 190-191)

The implications of this study cut in three different directions. First, this analysis challenges the human sciences. It presents an example of spirituality as a psychological specialization. This analysis shows how a fully humanistic-that is, nontheological-approach can authoritatively treat spirituality. Here are laid the theoretical foundations for the thoroughgoing empirical study of human spirituality. Granted the validity of this analysis, the human sciences have no legitimate reason for ignoring spiritual matters. And if the sciences nonetheless do ignore the spiritual core of humanity, they cannot be truly "human" sciences.

Second, this analysis challenges secular society to begin addressing spiritual issues. These core human issues about the meaning and purpose of life and about the values that sustain wholesome living have been simplistically deemed "religious." Then a clumsy "separation of church and state" has prevented rigorous public discussion about crucial societal issues. ... Spiritual issues need to become a legitimate topic of public debate. The present analysis suggests how such discussion may profitably proceed.

Third, this analysis challenges the religions to relinquish their monopolistic claim on spiritual matters. Rooted in an era when the fabric of society and of religion were one and the same, the religions have attempted to retain the right to decree how things should be. The religions have claimed authority over all things spiritual. In most cases, the authority they claim is that of divine revelation, and in the face of God there is no room for discussion. Fundamentalism is rampant. ...

Human studies, including spirituality, can become truly scientific. Conclusions need no longer be mere opinions, the protected positions of bickering schools or disputing religions. There can be an account of the human that is objectively valid, and it will be the measure of opinions and schools. Indeed, within the limits of its nontheist competence, it will be the measure of religious traditions and cultures. Even as modern medicine can preserve lives among still primitive peoples by discrediting unhygienic cultural and ritual practices, so a systematic spirituality can show the way to purge religious traditions of their deleterious elements. (pages 278-279)

This book does present a grand vision: the hope for a united humanity, the hope of universal consensus on the proverbial topics of forbidden discussion, religion and politics. Yet the basis for the vision does seem to support its grandeur. The explanation of consciousness or human spirit as unfolding in two modes [spirit and psyche -- TBR] on four inter-related levels appear to make a breakthrough that cuts in far-reaching directions. Those who would challenge this explanation can only end up confirming it in the very acts they must posit to argue. Then, if this explanation of consciousness is correct, apart from all theological considerations the human spiritual capacity is wondrous indeed. It can evidently understand even itself, and authentic humanity must be open to achievements even grander than those imagined here. But is that not precisely what spirituality is about? (page 280)

Compilation copyright © 1995 – 2001 CSP

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