Spiritual philosophy and Psychotherapy

Dr. V.K.Maheshwari, M.A. (Socio, Phil) B.Sc. M. Ed, Ph.D. Former Principal, K.L.D.A.V.(P.G) College, Roorkee, India

Mrs Sudha Rani Maheshwari, M.Sc (Zoology), B.Ed. Former Principal. A.K.P.I.College, Roorkee, India


Spirituality can be understood as the quest to understand and adhere to one’s spiritual intuitions.  Examples of such intuitions include that life has a positive purpose, and that one should be fair and compassionate.   This is distinct from religiousness, which designates one’s adherence to the tenets of an institution regarded as having authority concerning how one should live and what is ultimately true.

There is considerable dispute among many persons as to whether or not Spiritual philosophy can contribute anything toward the stable working of the human mind. There are many others, who feel that psychological training is absolutely necessary for the progressive ministers of Spiritual philosophy,  so that they may be able to help the unhappy conditions of their people. Let us consider the origin of mental disturbances to determine if Spiritual philosophy, properly understood and practiced, can stabilize the minds of men and lead to real satisfaction and happiness in life.

When we study the disturbed states of the people, we recognize three different types of functional ailments:

(1)   Neurosis, which originates in actual physical disorder such as defective brain matter and nervous system;

(2)   Psychogenic neurosis, which originates in mental disturbances of such types as mental conflict, frustration, and discontent; and

(3)  Psychosis, which is mental illness. Neurosis of purely physical origin can be treated and helped medically by the neurologists.

It requires technical knowledge to help neurotic conditions  of these types, and only the medical authorities can  be of service to such persons as  they know the structure and functioning of the nervous system and other parts of the body.

The psychogenic neurotic conditions originate in a different source. The mental conflicts and confusion are due to either abnormal primary or secondary urges. The physical side can be helped only by the neurologists or psychotherapeutics  and physicians, but such treatment cannot be beneficial unless it is supplemented by a sound and satisfactory philosophy of life. This can only be given by a man who has it himself, whether he is a religious man, psychiatrist, psychologist, or a physician, then, and then alone,  can be of service to a person who has a psychogenic neurosis. One must not  limit religious leadership to the people who have adopted religious way of  life. A physician or a psychologist may be equally religious if he has the proper understanding and appreciation of religious philosophy and practices.

Professor Jung agrees that higher values of life can be given to a person only by  man who has them himself. When we were talking together one day about the utility of the practice of concentration, he fully appreciated this view saying:”I cannot help my neighbours to keep their gardens in proper order unless I keep my own garden in order.” It is also of vital importance in case of mental training. One may be able to teach practical sciences without integrating one’s own- mind, but one cannot teach religion and mental culture without being established  them in himself.

The cases of psychosis can also be immensely helped by the man of stable mind and sound philosophy. Psychosis is generated by the conflicts, confusion, and frustration of the mind and by uncontrolled emotions. Those tendencies can hardly be removed unless higher values are absorbed by the person and then practically applied in his life.

Philosophy of Spirituality is concerned with understanding the ultimate foundations of spiritual intuitions.  Although the nature of this grounding is unresolved, there are some philosophical and empirical reasons for thinking that spiritual intuitions are ultimately grounded in the nature of fundamental reality, and not wholly reflective of socio-cultural conventions or neuro-biological mechanisms.  Investigation of this open issue is important because of the implications, whichever way the answer turns out, for social and political policy, and personal and social health and welfare

When a man has the spiritual ideal and regulates all his activities by it, he has a satisfactory way of life. He may fail many times to reach the goal, yet the very attempt gives a great deal of satisfaction and joy to his mind. In the early stages, the struggle the conflicting elements may remain strong and cause a little disgust and disappointment, but in the long run his whole mind becomes unified because his activities are subordinated to the highest value or goal of life. There is, however, apprehension among some of the outstanding thinkers that often spiritual zeal for salvation creates conflicts. But a proper philosophy of life can hamper any form of conflict. However sinful a man may be, however deplorable his conduct may be, he always has the possibility of redemption and enlightenment. In the teachings of Christ, St. Paul, the great Jewish’ mystics, and the Hindu and Buddhist spiritual leaders, we find definite understanding of the ability of human change and transformation.

Actually proper understanding of Spiritual philosophical ideals cannot hypnotize a man into a paralytic state nor can it create an abnormal sense of fear. On the other hand, it gives encouragement, determination, and power to reach the desired goal. Weaknesses are to be understood properly so that a man can make attempts to overcome them. There is great joy in the struggle of overcoming all obstacles and weaknesses. There is also joy in achieving success in the process of higher evolution.

Another concern among outstanding thinkers is that an unfavourable environment is responsible for mental conflicts. It is true that environmental conditions may create certain situations which are not conducive to the healthy growth of mental life and spiritual evolution. Yet poverty and mental disturbances are not simultaneous nor are they coexistent .A man may be poor and still have a sound philosophy of life, practicing the highest principles of ethics and religion in his everyday life. A man of humble economic condition need not necessarily be immoral or mentally restless. We find many persons of humble circumstances who possess deep spiritual qualities and mental stability because of their sound philosophy of life and its practical application. We know many noble souls in India who became great personalities in spite of their poverty.

Ancient and modern spiritual leaders, through their lives and teachings, remove all conflicts and frustration of the people and give a sound basis for real happiness. These principles has kept the people of India as well as early Christian civilizations in peaceful and harmonious conditions. Mental and functional diseases have been seldom found in them. We also observe ,that not only these great religious leaders but also  of their followers, who really organized their lives on a spiritual basis, have been the happiest persons of the world. Their lives prove to us, without the least shadow of doubt, that conflicts and frustration can be completely dissolved by the practice of spiritual philosophy in everyday living.

Sri Ramakrishna and other ancient and modern Hindu teachers tell us that God is Bliss..Anyone who meditates on Bliss, or God, gets unbounded joy. Try to steady it [the mind] again and again, by fixing it on the chosen Ideal, and at last you will become absorbed  in Him. If you continue your practice for two or three years, you will begin to feel unspeakable joy and the mind will become steady. In the beginning the practice of japam and meditation seems dry. It is like taking bitter medicine. You must forcibly pour the thought or God into your mind. As you persist you will be flooded with joy.

When the poisonous element of hedonism is changed into a spiritual philosophy, the chronic symptoms of modern unhappiness in various spheres of existence automatically vanish. All the progressive laws of social security and other insurances are noble attempts to make people happy and secure, but they will become meaningless if the basic  philosophy of life is not changed. All the progressive laws and regulations are bound to be failures in no time if man’s inner nature is not changed. If the law makers and administrators of law remain the same, then the beneficiaries of the laws will also remain the same. Consequently, conflicts of various types will inevitably exist; the condition of the people may be affected, but the causes will remain operartive, resulting in similar difficulties. Thus, in spite of progressive  thinking, we will enter into a vicious circle because of the failure to understand the root cause of the disease in modern society. All- the noble attempts of modern  psychiatrists will also be failures  to some extent, but they are only temporarily ameliorating the suffering. The real removal of the disease can only take place when psychiatry and Spiritual philosophy in the broadest sense of the term, amalgamate, co-operate, and coordinate properly. Herein we find the utility of Spiritual philosophy .

We know that there is skepticism and a critical attitude on the part of some of the psychologists and psychiatrists regarding the value of religion in psychotherapy. It is, however, conceivable that they have justification for some of their criticisms  regarding certain religious attitudes and interpretations of life.There can be no two opinions regarding the value of the religious conception of life.

Men differ in ritualism, ceremonies, and the use of symbols and forms. But these are not the essential part of Spiritual philosophy . The essential part of Spiritual philosophy religion emphasizes the understanding of the higher self, or God, or over soul, and the control of the lower self or empirical self, the selfish egocentric self. Rituals, ceremonies, creeds, doctrines, and dogmas are the secondary part of Spiritual philosophy . If anyone imagines that religious duties are fulfilled when he observes certain rituals and ceremonies and has only a belief in some personalities, then, of course, psychiatrists or psychotherapeutists will have justification in their criticism. On the contrary Sri Ramakrishna says: Knowledge leads to unity, but Ignorance to diversity long as God seems to be outside and far away, there  is ignorance. But when God is realised within, that is true knowledge. Meditate upon the Knowledge and Bliss eternal, and you will also have bliss. The Bliss indeed is eternal, only it is covered and obscured by ignorance. The less your attachment is towards the senses, the more will be your love towards God. Those who wish to attain God and progress in religious devotion, should particularly guard themselves against the snares of lust and wealth. Otherwise they can never attain perfection. The sun can give heat and light to the whole world, but it can do nothing when the clouds shut out its rays. Similarly, so long as egoism is in the heart, God cannot shine upon it Iron, after it is converted into gold by the touch of the philosopher’s stone, may be kept under the ground or thrown into a  rubbish heap; it will always remain gold and will not return to its former condition. Similar is the state of the man whose soul has touched even once the feet of the Almighty Lord. Whether he dwells in the bustle of the world, or in the solitude of the forest, nothing ever contaminates him. We need to understand that religion brings out the best in a man manifesting the divinity that is’ already in him. In fact, the higher interpretation of any religion is to bring out the best in man.

Swami Vivekananda defines religion as the “manifestation of the divinity that is already in man. It If we understand religion properly, We cannot help thinking that religion alone can solve the basic problem of mental ailments. When religious practices, creeds, rituals, ceremonies, symbols, and statues help us to manifest the divinity in us, let them realize the goal of life. We attain joint heirship ‘with Christ, as St. Paul emphasizes in one of his Epistles:  We are the-children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Knowing this fact, ‘we are compelled to think that when a man flies to manifest the best in him, the divine nature in the spirit of God in him, he cannot submit to his lower passions and lower desires and aspirations. The duty of religious leaders is to bring out the higher qualities and not to emphasize ignoble tendencies or frighten cause of his weaknesses.

Spiritual philosophy is to help man remove the cause of conflict and frustration by the positive method of, revealing the divinity (Alma) ‘within him. This Reality is changeless, eternal, pure, and blissful.  It has been the experience of many scientific observers that the religious schools which emphasize the weakness and sinful nature of man often become the sources of discouragement, frustration, and mental conflict. We are thoroughly convinced that right understanding of the religious philosophy of life, as prescribed and lived by the great founders of religion and their successful followers, can create no objection for psychotherapeutists. So we say that a broad and clear understanding of Spiritual philosophy can certainly be coordinated with the technical knowledge of modern psychotherapy. Infect, psychotherapy, as practiced by psychiatrists, and religious philosophy must go together. There is no reason for the conflict between real Spiritual philosophers  and real psychotherapy.’ We are pleased to quote Professor Gordon W. Allport:” By and large psychology has done little to give systematic setting to  these various dynamic formations that reprsent the apex of development in the mature personality. With time, no doubt, when the errors of excessive elementar is in and geneticism are cleared away, and the principle of functional autonomy is substituted as a general guide, the situation will improve”.

It is known to us that some of the  Spiritual philosophers  are rather critical and suspicious of the methods of psycho- therapy. There is, unfortunately, mutual suspicion and skepticism on the part of both groups , but this can be removed by the proper understanding of religion. Then modern psychology would  not be antagonistic to a broad interpretation of  Spiritual philosophy, nor would Spiritual philosophy  term psychotherapy as  an offshoot of the materialistic philosophy of life. It is true that many of the psychiatrists and psychologists  are materialistic in the  broad sense of the term. But our contention is that if psychology is pushed beyond the physiological side, then psychologists will understand the reality behind the three changeable states of  consciousness-waking, dreaming, and sound sleep, or conscious and subconscious.

An analysis of these three states of consciousness will convince us that there is a permanent reality behind them. The very idea of these three changeable states arises from the nonchangeable and permanent existence behind them. Psychology properly evolved and developed can only help in  accepting a permanent reality behind the observable states of consciousness ( the fourth and it: is called turiya, the superconscious). So it seems to us that psychology and  proper Spiritual philosophy understood and developed to their logical conclusions will have to  mingle together. In fact, in India psychology is the basic science of spiritual evolution. Spiritual philosophers are all ethical and psychological leaders. It is evidence to us that a  man. cannot become a thoroughly religious person unless  he established himself  in the higher principles of ethics and psychology. He must have a thorough knowledge  and control over the mental states and thought processes in order to have higher spiritual experiences.

Similarly on the other hand, a psychologist must also have full control over his own mind in order to be effective in treating his clients, for a man who has not integrated his own mind can not help in the integration of the minds of others. Professor Jung and some other psychologists fully realize that unless a psychologist is established in his own integration and unification of mind, having dissolved his own conflicts and frustrations, he cannot be of any definite use to his clients and students. It must be admitted, however, that ‘Power of,modern psycho therapy is ameliorating the suffering of many .persons. We must say that this “will serve only as a temporary help if a higher religious background is not furnished in removing the cause of disturbance. This means  psychological theory alone cannot make one a psychitrist. He must also apply the psychological principles in his own personal life. This leads us to the conclusion that a psyotherapeptist must be a  Spiritual philosopher

in the broader sense of the term. He may differ from others in his conception of God. He may also differ in the methods of integration of his emotions, thought, and will and can act according to, his own natural tendencies and aptitudes. This broad principle is applicable in the higher phases of Spiritual philosophy.

Therefore, a good practicing psychotherapeutist and a good Spiritual philosophers should have  mental peace and happiness in common. From the Hindu point of view, psychology an Spiritual philosophy can never be an antagonistic; rather they are the two phases of the same branch of know ledge both Spiritual philosophers and psychiatrists should work together for the elimination of mental disorder and conflicts. By their lives they should inspire the average men and woman.  Spiritual philosophers should furnish the philosophy or way of life and show the practical application of that philosophy in everyday living by subordinating all activities to the ideal; while psychiatrists and psychologists should use their technical knowledge and its application in individual cases. Of course, the persons who have organic neurosis or who have psychosis due to organic troubles should be handled entirely by the psychologists and neurologists with technical and medical knowledge, while the  Spiritual philosophers should always be prepared to be of service to both the psychiatrists and the clients.





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