A QUESTION OF BALANCE:
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Health and Pathology in New Religious Movements
by Frances Vaughan, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1983 by Frances Vaughan. All rights reserved.
Used by the Council on Spiritual Practices with permission.
Dick Anthony, Bruce Ecker, and Ken Wilber. Spiritual Choices:
The Problem of Recognizing Authentic Paths to Inner Transformation.
New York: Paragon House, 1987.
The risk of a regrettable involvement in a spiritual group depends in large
part on the prospective member's capacity for self-deception. Frances
Vaughan's article provides ways of inquiring into oneself and into the
group and leader one may be considering. A psychotherapist in private
practice and professor of psychology at the California Institute of
Transpersonal Psychology, Frances Vaughan, Ph.D., is a past president of
the Association for Transpersonal Psychology, the author of
Awakening Intuition (1979), and a co-editor of Paths Beyond Ego:
The Transpersonal Vision (1993). In the following
paper she surveys a wide range of motives for joining a group, only some
of which reflect genuine spiritual aspiration. The psychological effects of
membership may surpass or fall short of the member's original motives,
and Dr. Vaughan discusses these possible effects in terms of two basic
types of ego attenuation, regressive and transcendent. To distinguish
between these is a task which apparently eludes conventional ego
psychology, especially as "the principles of healthy development beyond
ego-identification may appear to be reversed relative to those of sound ego
Our society is currently in the midst of a cultural-spiritual
decline of American civil religion - those traditional religious
observances that combine Christianity with patriotism and social
- and the failure of orthodox religious practices to provide
genuine experiences of transcendence have created a climate of spiritual
deprivation and an intensified search for transcendental answers.
seems, popular demand is for experience rather than theology or dogma,
and for the direct inner knowing of mystical states.
While societal unrest and the disintegration of traditional institutions pose
a serious threat to existing structures, the popularity of spiritual groups
offering a variety of pathways to transcendence calls for a new perspective
on the part of observers attempting to formulate practical guidelines for
healthy psychological and spiritual development throughout life. The
challenge is to evaluate groups that claim to offer pathways to
transcendence in terms that make sense to people who want to weigh the
potential benefits of joining such groups against hazards of indoctrination,
coercion, and authoritarian control.
Popular new religious movements in America include those groups that
follow a particular personality, such as Meher Baba, Bhagwan Shree
Rajneesh, or Reverend Moon; those that derive from Eastern disciplines,
such as Zen, Vajrayana or Theravadin Buddhism; those that focus on
esoteric teachings, such as those of Gurdjieff, Alice Bailey, or the
Kabbalah; and those that are oriented toward personal growth and social
change rather than explicitly religious training, such as The est
training and Synanon.
Evidence of abusive authoritarianism has drawn public attention to such
groups as the People's Temple and Synanon, but authoritarianism and
abuses of power are certainly not unique to those groups. Cultic tyranny
can issue from many sources. It may be a condition in the culture at large,
where it is more difficult to identify (for example, scientism), and it may
also occur in the behavior of individuals or group leaders unaffiliated with
any of the new movements.
The problem of evaluating groups that combine psychology with religious
idealism has plagued both psychologists and sociologists for over a
decade. Certainly the growth of new religions must be viewed in the
context of a broader challenge facing American society, and the
breakdown of traditional institutions can be considered both as cause and
effect in the proliferation of religious groups and spiritual psychotherapies
In addition to having popular appeal, many of these groups operate with a
high degree of psychological sophistication, offering perspectives on
human behavior that could be useful to social and behavioral scientists
who are now beginning to consider spiritual growth as an integral aspect
of healthy human development. Buddhism, for example, offers a variety
of perspectives on consciousness and the mind. When Buddhism spread
across Asia from India to Tibet, China, and Japan, it was absorbed by the
culture of each area, so that specific indigenous practices evolved.
we have many culturally transplanted forms of Buddhism in
Tibetan, Theravadin, and Zen Buddhism are popular sects, but each retains,
to a large extent, the trappings of the culture from which it has been
A truly indigenous American Buddhism has yet to evolve; it
may well be that Buddhism will be absorbed into this culture as a
psychology rather than as a religion.
The problem to consider here, however, is not the relative merit of
alternative spiritual practices, but the psychological consequences of
joining a group that purportedly offers spiritual self-realization. Freedom
and autonomy are accorded value in terms of psychological health, but the
thirst for spiritual nourishment apparently leads large numbers of
individuals to surrender self-determination willingly in order to gain a
sense of purpose in a world perceived to be meaningless. The desire to
relieve suffering in ourselves and others can also be an incentive to
relinquish autonomy and surrender to someone who is presumably better
qualified to prescribe behavior for optimum well-being. While the
psychological consequences of participating in a group are not necessarily
contingent on motivation for joining, the variety of individual motives
should not be overlooked.
MOTIVATION FOR JOINING GROUPS
Part of the motivation for joining a group may be either a temporary
alliance for the purpose of satisfying felt needs and fulfilling idealistic
aspirations, or a lifetime commitment that provides a viable alternative to
the existential anxiety and alienation that seem to be inherent in a
Indeed, the desire to be part of something larger
than oneself seems to be intrinsic to healthy human development on the
level of self-actualization,
the stage at which fulfillment of one's higher
psychological potential is felt priority. But spiritual seekers are not
necessarily healthy self-actualizers.
Those who are looking for someone
to whom they can turn over responsibility for their lives are easy prey to
idealistic as well as cynical manipulators of the human
Some spiritual groups actively recruit members, either on college
campuses or in public places such as airports, where people who are
feeling alienated, lonely, and lacking in some religious or philosophical
support system may be susceptible to the attraction of belonging to a
community of people who appear to share common values, a sense of
purpose, and definitive answers to the perennial search for meaning. From
a psychological perspective, motivation for joining spiritual groups may
span a broad spectrum of needs. Individuals may join a group because
they are unable to support themselves adequately; because they feel lonely
and isolated and welcome the sense of belonging to a community;
they are looking for a teach or substitute parent figures to mitigate the
awesome uncertainties of existence;
because they are personally
attracted to the leader or someone else in the group; because they feel
empowered to be more effective in the world as a result of group support;
because they genuinely want to make a contribution to the well-being of
others; because they want to improve social conditions and relieve
suffering; because they feel they are actualizing their potential and
progressing along a path of spiritual development; or because of a desire to
become spiritually enlightened and attain personal liberation from the
conflicts of life.
The process of deciding to join a group, like many of life's major
decisions, is likely to be subjective (either impulsive or intuitive) rather
than objective (rational and analytical). The process seems more
analogous to falling in love than to careful strategic planning.
intuition is well developed as a way of knowing, it can provide reliable
guidance for decision-making.
For most people, however, reliability
only develops after considerable training of intuitive awareness, and even
then intuition should not, in my view, be considered a substitute for reason
and discrimination. Wholeness implies balanced, appropriate use of all
Whatever motives or combination of motives predominate among spiritual
seekers, groups should not be evaluated solely on the basis of whether or
not they satisfy these demands.
While the legitimacy of a particular
religion may be determined by how well it meets the psychological needs
of a given population, Wilber
has pointed out that its
authenticity depends on the degree to which it actually facilitates
transcendence. Almost any religious group can satisfy the desire to
surrender to something larger than the separate self, but an authentic,
viable belief system must also accommodate psychological needs for
continuing integration and transcendence.
CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING SPIRITUAL GROUPS
From a transpersonal perspective, health and growth at each stage of
development can be viewed as a matter of balance, as one
self-identification is transcended and a new, more encompassing one is
assumed. Some spiritual groups evidently enable people to grow and
develop their potential in this manner, while others appear to be
detrimental in that they support a regressive tendency to relinquish
awareness and responsibility in favor of unquestioning obedience to a
charismatic leader or dogmatically enforced world-view. Reductionist
approaches to the study of new religious movements add to the confusion
by failing to make the crucial distinction between regression to
pre-rational states and the attainment of transrational
qualities that contribute
to authentic transpersonal development.
The common tendency to
interpret transpersonal experience as pre-personal
narcissism is a key
element in this confusion and leads to the mistaken assumption that all
states not dominated by the rational-verbal ego are pathological and
consequently detrimental. Transpersonal development may begin at any
age, but is growth beyond ego, not regression and not a substitute for the
state of ego development.
Ken Wilber suggests that since society at large is currently undergoing
significant transformations, it is incumbent upon social scientists to
determine the direction f these transformations (see endnote 12). Is the
search for ego-transcendence likely to devolve into pre-rational chaos? Do
spiritual groups contribute to either or both of these possible directions?
Clearly, no definitive answers can be given for all spiritual groups. Each
group would have to be examined as a unique case.
In attempting to evaluate a particular group, it would be useful to
determine whether participation in the group promotes pathological
regression to pre-personal states or healthy, authentic transcendence of
ego. Attempting to determine this from the standpoint of ego psychology
is virtually impossible, since the assumptions of that school of thought
preclude recognition of the transcendent. The task requires recognition of
ego formation not as an end state but as an intermediate stage of
evolutionary development. Even then, investigators are faced with
differentiating transpersonal from pre-personal states in order to avoid
pathologizing genuine transpersonal awareness or mistaking regressive
ego loss for mystical experience.
Philosophy teacher Michael Washburn
has delineated specific
distinctions between pre-personal and transpersonal states. In his view ego
transcendence is characterized by: (1) integrated, articulate wholeness in
contrast to undifferentiated oneness; (2) consciously cognized intuition in
contrast to trance or passive, unconscious perception; (3) faith and grace in
contrast to infantile dependence; (4) insight in contrast to undifferentiated
perception; (5)spontaneity in contrast to reactivity and impulsiveness; (6)
altruism in contrast to narcissism; and (7) purity of heart in contrast to
ignorance. Ego development in this framework is viewed as a transition
that inevitably involves both alienation and evolution of consciousness. It
is at the ego level that conscious, effective action becomes possible.
The manner in which the group or its leader handles the loyalty or
disloyalty of members if often very revealing of group pathology. Some
leaders overtly threaten potential defectors with physical violence; others
threaten ideological or eternal damnation. Others simply withhold love,
approval, and recognition. Although we may judge some methods as more
reprehensible than others, the effects seem similar. When loyalty is
coerced, the person's integrity and sense of worth are undermined. Only
when participation in group activities is clearly the result of free choice
can it be expected to contribute to healthy self-esteem and
The self-sense of an individual who joins a spiritual group may become
completely identified with the group.
The structuring of knowledge,
normally managed by the individual ego, can be taken over by a
pathogenic group, just as it is preempted in totalitarian states for purposes
of information control. The
structure of the group may reflect the
development stage of the leader, or it may represent disowned,
unconsciously projected aspects of the leader's psyche. The responsibility
of individual members for pathogenic group behavior should not be
overlooked, however. Attributing negative group characteristics to the
leader alone can be misleading. The intrinsically dynamic nature of
groups precludes a definitive analysis of separate parts as if they existed
independently of each other. Assuming that the group has a leader, an
evaluation of the group cannot be divorced, in my opinion, from an
assessment of the leader's own level of development and an examination
of the master-disciple relationship as practiced in the group.
MASTERS AND MASTERY
Mastery implies power in any field, but spiritual mastery has unique
characteristics. Whereas mastery at the level of ego consists largely of
self-determination and expertise, mastery at the level of transpersonal
realization is a matter of integration and self-transcendence.
the world," says Sufi master Inayat Khan,
"are those who have
mastered themselves, and mastery lies in control of the mind. If the mind
becomes your obedient servant, the whole world is at your service."
In common usage the noun "master" generally refers either to a male
having another person subject to his will, or to one who uses or controls at
will that which is mastered. As a verb, to master means to subdue, to
become adept at a particular skill, or to rule or direct. Whereas ego
mastery implies superiority and control of the external world, spiritual
mastery implies self-mastery and mastery of the mind. For example, this
type of mastery may be developed through the practice of concentration
mediation and the strengthening of the will, or by various types of insight
meditation that aim at detachment from egoic mental productions. The
power of penetrating insight is an aspect of mastery that becomes available
when control of the mind has been attained.
Practicing consciousness disciplines that aim at control of the mind can
also contribute to the development of psychic powers, those powers of the
mind commonly called "extra sensory." These tend to become available at
transpersonal levels of development. However, the attainment of psychic
powers does not ensure either ethics or spiritual understanding, and such
powers may be abused by someone who has not yet transcended egoic
identification. In many spiritual disciplines extra-sensory powers are
considered by-products of spiritual work and are traditionally eschewed as
traps that can lead a spiritual aspirant to ego entanglements in the domain
of occult energies, or subtle realm. While healthy transpersonal
development demands eventual transcendence of ego, the actual process of
growth to higher, more subtle and complex levels of development does not
necessarily ensure immediate transcendence of lower levels. In attempting
to assess levels of mastery, then, the display of psychic powers by one who
has mastered them should not be considered an indication of spiritual
mastery. On the contrary, the use of such abilities in the service of ego
goals, such as attracting or intimidating followers, should automatically be
suspect. A spiritual master who has truly transcended ego could be
expected to disdain the use of special powers for purposes of manipulation
To facilitate making the distinction between mastery at the ego level and
mastery at authentically spiritual levels, let us review some of the
characteristics of each. At the ego level a person is said to be a master of
destiny when he or she is self-determining, rather than being subject to
control by others. In personal growth, self-determination is often equated
with mental health. Clients in psychotherapy improve as they learn to take
responsibility for initiating change and designing their lives in accordance
with a realistic appraisal of their potentials. Psychological health,
however, is not just a function of increasing self-control, but rather a
function of learning to maintain an appropriate, dynamic balance between
effort and surrender, control and relaxation, assertiveness and
In contrast, the principles of healthy development beyond
ego-identification may appear to be reversed relative to those of sound ego
development. Where self-determination, self-regulation, and appropriate
self-concept were essential to developing a cohesive sense of ego-identity,
attachment to an independent sense of self can impede progress at higher
levels. For example, a display of psychic powers is considered hazardous
to anyone using them for ego goals. Just as the spiritually enlightened
human being is said to be in the world but not of it, the powers of spiritual
mastery are said to be in the master but not of him or her. This attitude
can be a safeguard against the risk of ego inflation which transpersonal
experience may stimulate, but does not necessarily preclude such risk.
One may see oneself as a vehicle of spirit, or identified with spirit, but any
personal claims to manipulation or control indicate egoic attachment rather
than authentic transpersonal mastery.
The transcendence of ego goals and desires is manifested in the quality of
For example, the path of the warrior as described by Don
Juan to Carlos Castaneda,
demands that everything in life be perceived
as a challenge rather than as blessing or misfortune. The warrior chooses
to act in the world as if actions mattered, despite perceiving their lack of
absolute meaning. A warrior's actions are called "controlled folly," and
the warrior has no personal stake in their outcome. Ego attachment to
power becomes an obstacle to further development, as does attachment to
recognition, success, or any form of personal achievement. In traditions
where the master is also a trickster (Gurdjieff, Don Juan), invisibility
rather than fame is considered a desirable attribute. The person who
wishes to advance on the pat of spiritual development is invariably
instructed to practice detachment, for to be attached to mastery is to be
ruled by that which one seeks to master.
According to the teachings of the
ancient Chinese sage, Lao Tsu,
a master's leadership based on love
and respect is better than leadership based on fear and coercion, but
leadership is best when the people say, "We have done this ourselves."
Spiritual masters can use everything as an opportunity for inner
development. They do not assign credit or blame either to themselves or
Authentic spiritual masters, unlike the mass leader who seeks an
appearance of infallibility and cannot admit
error, are not concerned
with winning or losing. They have already won. There is nowhere to go
because they have already arrived. By contrast, a leader whose mastery is
only at the ego level may actively seek disciples in large numbers. In
master/slave relationships that develop at this level, the master is apt to
become the slave of his own passions. Genuine spiritual masters, on the
other hand, do not hold power as if it belonged to them personally. They
know that they do not own (in the egoic sense) the wisdom and power
manifested through them.
In the Buddhist tradition the spiritual master knows himself to be nothing.
This realization of no-self, the recognition of the illusory nature of ego
identifications, is the basis of liberation. The Buddhist practice of
mindfulness meditation, which trains awareness of the body, of feelings, of
consciousness and truth, is described as a path of spiritual purification for
the seeker. Qualifies cultivated in the practice of mindfulness meditation
re investigation, energy, rapture, generosity, renunciation, patience,
loving-kindness, truthfulness, calm, concentration, and equanimity.
A master of
this discipline is expected to manifest these qualities, being totally free of
"defilements" and negative emotions.
Similarly, the Christian mystical teaching of A Course in
describes "teachers of God" as manifesting the following
characteristics: trust (in the power that is in them but not of them),
honesty, tolerance, gentleness, joy, defenselessness, generosity, patience,
faithfulness, and open-mindedness. Attributes such as love, perfection,
knowledge and eternal truth are not on the list because they are held to be
inherent in everyone. The task of the teacher in this system is to remove
the obstacles to this realization. mastery in this context would be defined
as corrected perception.
The paradox is that spiritual mastery is attained through surrender of ego.
Ego-motivated striving, therefore, is counterproductive, and the person
who would attain mastery must be willing to renounce even the desire for
The Third Zen Patriarch says, " ... even to be attached to the idea
of enlightenment is to go astray ... [W]hen thought is in bondage the truth
Although different meditation practices lead to different levels of
consciousness, many aim at mastery of the mind and evidently culminate
in the awakened state of unchanging awareness of reality as it is, as
distinct from transient flashes of insight. When flashes of insight have
been stabilized into the abiding light of the awakened state, spiritual
mastery has been attained.
There are many different approaches to this
and every mystical tradition has its own name for the awakened
state, but all describe the diffusion of the effects of spiritual practice into
waking, dreaming, and sleeping states. Moreover, what requires arduous
effort at the outset becomes effortless as the seeker learns to maintain
awareness in the midst of other activities. Since an awakened being
transcends cultural origins, the enlightened master can be recognized by a
person of any faith who has developed the capacity for such
Despite these distinct characteristics of spiritual mastery as defined in
religious traditions, it is difficult for the untrained observer to distinguish a
genuine spiritual master from a fraudulent one. Of course, anyone wishing
to develop the necessary discernment through spiritual practice is free to
do so, but the novice who has no training in this area cannot be expected
to make accurate evaluations of spiritual mastery, much as anyone who is
not trained in science cannot adequately evaluate a scientific
CHOOSING A TEACHER
Nevertheless, in the absence of trained observation, we are called on to
make subjective evaluations in choosing a spiritual teacher.
has observed that the best protection against being misled on the spiritual
path by false teachers is the purity of the seeking. Unfortunately, good
intentions do not preclude gullibility. Furthermore, it may well be that our
spiritual seeking is motivated by the range of desires described earlier, so
that "pure" and "impure" motives are interlaced and operating at once.
Self-awareness, therefore, is a valuable asset to the seeker who wants to
avoid the pitfalls of spiritual tyranny.
In order to choose a teacher or group with some degree of self-awareness,
one could begin by asking oneself some questions. In considering
involvement with a self-proclaimed master, for example, one might ask:
What attracts me to this person? Am I attracted to his or her power,
showmanship, cleverness, achievements, glamour, ideas? Am I motivated
by fear or love? Is my response primarily physical excitement, emotions
activation, intellectual stimulation, or intuitive resonance? What would
persuade me to trust him/her (or anyone) more than myself? Am I looking
for a parent figure to relieve me of the responsibility for my life? Am I
looking for a group where I feel I can belong and be taken care of in return
for doing what I am told? What am I giving up? Am I moving towards
something I am drawn to, or am I running away from my life as it is?
Regarding the master, one might reflect on whether his or her presence
conveys a feeling of inner peace. The presence of a spiritual master is said
to have a soothing and healing effect on others without any intentional
manipulation on the part of the master. On the other hand, a charismatic
leader who is not a genuine spiritual master can have a hypnotic effect on a
group, so as to induce a sense of peace and well-being by intentional
manipulation. A particular seeker may or may not be sensitive to the
difference. Furthermore, if one is absorbed in a subjective state such as
anxiety or despair, the presence of a true master could go unnoticed.
Being in the presence of a master might actually be anxiety-provoking to
someone experiencing conflict about surrendering to a spiritual
relationship or discipline. Whatever form egoic resistance may take, as
long as an individual is afraid or unwilling to be honest with oneself and
look directly at the truth of one's own make-up and beliefs about reality, it
is not possible to perceive another clearly, particularly someone who has
attained more advanced levels of development. When a particular leader
appears to agree with personal biases and preconceptions, one may be
willing to trust him or her without asking any questions.
It is easy to
question apparently irrational, funny or bizarre beliefs of others, but one's
own are usually assumed to be true.
Finally, another important question to ask regarding a purported master is:
Does the master manifest compassion, generosity, loving kindness,
honesty, calm, and open-mindedness? These questions will not provide
definitive guidelines for action, but they can provide a basis of
self-awareness and thereby reduce the likelihood of making regrettable choices.
Just as parents cannot prevent sons or daughters from falling in love with
partners of whom they do not approve, scholarly cautions based on
research are not likely to be particularly effective in preventing fraudulent
masters from gathering disciples. Individuals who leave groups after
being disillusioned characteristically claim that they originally joined with
pure intentions, wanting to ally with others for the purpose of making a
positive contribution to society. it appears that neither self-awareness nor
good intentions are sufficient to prevent errors in judgment. The purity of
the seeking, then, may provide some protection, but it may also contribute
to naive, unquestioning acceptance of corrupt leadership.
In addition to questions pertaining to self-awareness, anyone who is
considering joining a group might be advised to consider the
Does the group keep secrets about its organization and the
leader? How do members of the group respond to embarrassing
questions? (For example, does the leader have a Swiss bank account or
indulge in sexual relations with group members?) Do members display
stereotypic behavior that emulates the leader? Does the group have a party
line that does not permit members to express how they really feel? Do
members see themselves as having found the only true way? Are members
free to leave? Are members asked to violate personal ethics to prove their
loyalty? Does the group's public image misrepresent its true nature? Are
humor and irreverence permitted?
In many instances recovery from disillusionment with a fraudulent master
or pathogenic group is marked by the decision to trust oneself more than
powerful leader figures. Denouncing shortcomings and maintaining a
noncommittal stance can serve to prevent problematic involvements, but
can also stall spiritual development and obscure feelings of vulnerability to
deception in an area where we are inadequately trained to make informed
judgments. Just as a fearful parent might try to dissuade a child from
risking intimacy and thereby cripple the child's emotional development,
excessive skepticism can stifle healthy spiritual development. Of course
reasonable caution and investigation of group practices certainly are
appropriate for anyone considering joining. Yet, if one is capable of
taking the warrior stance (see endnote 16) and accepting all experiences in
life as challenges, then even a difficult experience in a group can
contribute to wisdom and maturity. Many persons who have joined a
spiritual group and then left have reported feeling the experience was
valuable despite considerable hardship. When an individual leaves a
group, an empowering sense of having met the challenge of the experience
may be gained in its retelling.
This process has been described as a task of
psychological growth through restoration of integrity.
Current interest in new religious movements points not only to the dearth
of spiritual nourishment in the culture at large, but also to the universality
of religious impulses and the desire for genuine transcendence. The
vacuum created by the decline of traditional American civil religion is
being filled by both exploitative charlatans at one extreme and true
spiritual masters at the other. Social scientists can best view the new
movements as participant observers, with awareness that observations
invariably reflect the level of inquiry. While we are working on expending
our perceptual framework, it behooves us to be aware of the limitations of
our ability to pass judgment on teachers and teachings we have not been
trained to evaluate.
Despite these limitations, we must somehow learn to discriminate between
genuine and counterfeit spiritual teachers. In doing so we can bear in
mind that transpersonal development beyond the conventional ego-identity
is never a justification for the violation of basic human rights or individual
dignity. In genuine transcendence the intrinsic value of individuality is
affirmed and integrated in a larger context.
In attempting to evaluate spiritual groups, individuals must honestly
consider their personal limitations. We must be willing to free our own
minds from dishonesty and self-deception if we are to do more than cling
to uninformed opinions. In certain instances it may seem appropriate to
suspend judgment about a group when different individuals report
different reactions to participation. Certainly individual differences make
some groups appropriate for some people, and not for other, at certain
times. Some groups may be clearly detrimental to healthy human
development, but many are ambiguous, and others apparently have
contributed to healthy psychological and spiritual growth for at least some
individuals who have made a commitment to participation.
Groups could be considered as being stage specific, insofar as any one
group contributes to certain areas of development and not others. For
example, one who has a highly developed intellect or logical-analytic
function might choose to subject himself or herself to rigorous meditation
discipline in order to achieve balance by development contemplative
awareness, which is not based on the intellect. On the other hand, the
same form of practice might not be beneficial for someone who has failed
to develop integrity at an ego level.
Most orthodox religious institutions in the West have failed to provide
training in contemplation in any disciplined way. Yet healthy human
development calls for a balanced integration of physical, emotional,
mental, and spiritual aspects of well-being. The transpersonal dimension
of human consciousness cannot be ignored, and there is no value-free
stance. Contending human development demands further investigation
and exploration. Each of us must choose, despite our limitations, where to
look for guidance in this domain.
In the final analysis, efforts at evaluation might best be guided by the
words of Buddha:
Do not believe in what you have heard; do not believe in traditions
because they have been handed down for many generations; do not believe
anything because it is rumored and spoken of by many; do not believe
merely because the written statement of some old sage is produced; do not
believe conjectures; do not believe merely in the authority of your teachers
After observations and analysis, when it agrees with reason
and it is conductive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it
and live up to it.
- This article has appeared in modified form in the Journal of
Humanistic Psychology, Vol.23, No. 3, 1983.
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- D. Coleman, "Early warning signs of the detection of spiritual blight,"
Association for Transpersonal Psychology Newsletter, Summer,
- R. Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism (New
York: W.W. Norton, 1969).[return]
- Kalamas Sutra, cited in Boorstein, ed., Transpersonal
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