Negative mental conditions or pathological processes in psyche or soul are a direct inner manifestation of a traumatic experience as the main cause of human problems. Pathological processes in psyche will create pathological processes in body and a pathological attitude towards God. Most therapeutic systems study and treat different kinds of pathological processes at the level of the soul and spirit, but little has been said about a healthy soul and a healthy spirit. Therefore, before dealing with the pathology, it would be advisable to define a healthy condition for the soul and spirit. I will also add some ideas about the healthy body.
A HEALTHY BODY
It is not difficult to define a healthy body since it can be measured with different instruments. A healthy body is usually one which is not under the influence of any of the pathological processes we call illnesses. Adding to this definition, I would say a healthy body is one which is functioning well at any age. A healthy physical body functions during all periods of human life, although in accordance with age. Some spiritual teachings, from my point of view, over stress the importance of physical abilities. Some go as far as the idea of immortality of the physical body as a sign of spiritual realisation, and treat ageing as an illness. I think that ageing is a natural process, but it is not natural to have a completely dysfunctional body, at least for the activities suitable for a certain age. It is only natural to be able to move, even at a very old age. The body can stay flexible and strong, although the objective physical abilities of an old person will be much different from the abilities of a young one.
The body does not have to look decrepit and withered at any age, and yet many people look weak while still young, and much worse when they are old. The body doesn't need to be deformed, either. Big bellies, wrinkled skin and a yellow complexion are all pathological processes. They reflect a number of non-cleansed traumatic experiences and their consequences blocking the energy flow in the energy body. Such obstacles are automatically reflected in the physical body. A healthy, fluent and charged energy body will provide the physical body with a healthy tan, flexibility and strength. A healthy body is a body functioning at any age. It is not too much deformed when compared to the body we had when our growth ended, i.e. at the moment of reaching adulthood.
A HEALTHY PSYCHE
Similar to the physical body which is not considered healthy only in the absence of illness, a healthy soul is not only the one which is free of negative thoughts and emotions. A model of "Soul states" described by Martyn Carruthers in a system of personal growth called "Soulwork" is rather complete model of a healthy soul. It is the closest verbal description of a subjective inner experience that we usually call the experience of a soul. I will add a few more important characteristics to this model. So, these are the characteristics of a person with a healthy soul or psyche.
1. The awareness of original identity
An individual with a healthy soul is primarily characterized by the awareness of who he/she really is. Such awareness can be directly expressed by the phrase "I am myself". The person is aware that his or her original identity is always the same, regardless of the role played at the moment. Such a person knows that he/she is a soul, self or atman. When someone says "I am myself", this does not mean changeable temporary identities used as roles, but the primal unchanged identity. The soul is independent of the physical body and the person has a feeling he/she has always existed as a soul. If we know who we are, we can live and act from within ourselves. We will not have a need to identify ourselves with phoney or unsuitable roles. An individual who knows who he/she is, will be able to accept himself/herself for who he/she truly is.
2. Possibility to intentionally influence inner states of mind
A person with a healthy soul will not resist any content of his/her mind and will not stay in an unwanted condition, either. A mentally healthy individual does not personally produce obstacles to the realization of his/her own desires or goals. The world of a mentally healthy person is full of desirable mental contents, positive thoughts and emotions. When negative mental conditions do occur, such an individual will know how to turn them into positive ones. A mentally healthy person has got the ability to intentionally influence the contents of his/her own mind.
3. The inner connectedness
A healthy soul is also characterized by a condition of inner connectedness, enabling free communication between all its aspects. It means that one can communicate easily with his/her subconscious and higher conscious. Such a person is also able to verbally communicate in a clear way and can easily adjust to the type of reality of another being, be it human or not. A person with a healthy soul tries to listen to and understand another person's message and is able to translate their reality models into his/her own language. Such a person is not limited by language or words and understands the message regardless of its form.
A mentally healthy person is connected with his/her true feelings, which keep the person in touch with his/her own source. Such an individual is also able to relate to other people in a healthy way. Mentally healthy people continually connect with other people. Because they are aware of the inevitability of relationships, they do not break them easily. When someone is closely connected with people around oneself, that person is at the same time connected with the humanity as a whole and regards oneself as an integrated part of the universe.
4. A sense of wholeness
A healthy soul is complete. The experience of wholeness is accompanied by full consciousness of all the aspects of one's "Self" and a possibility of integrating all the identities or fragments of one's personality into one. A healthy soul or psyche is also characterized by a balance of the male and female principles, parent and teacher figures, inner child and the mature person, as well as the awareness of all the other characteristic archetypes of one's own psyche. A whole person is independent and able to make decisions. Such an individual knows how to deal with conflicts between his/her own parts and can also discover in himself/herself certain characteristics or resources needed for the realization of different goals.
Apart from the awareness of one's own identity, a healthy psyche enables one to create a positive feeling about one's own values. Such people are aware of their relationship with the environment and regard it from the aspect of their self-confidence. They are also aware of their limits in space; they respect themselves and demand the same from other people. Their actions and decisions will be clear, responsible and honest. In other words - they will show integrity.
6. The awareness of goals and the meaning of one's own life
A healthy soul is aware of the fact that it creates its own life and takes full responsibility for this. A healthy soul knows that creating one's life begins with the realization of one's goals and continually tries to become aware of them. Such individuals are aware of the fact that the meaning of their lives cannot be something outside of the boundaries of their own being. The meaning of their lives also cannot become something they do not wish to become. They are aware of their highest potentials and always try to use them - they do not expect the outer world to solve their problems, to fulfil them or realize their goals.
7. Love for oneself and others
A mentally healthy person loves himself/herself and is able to love other people, too. This kind of love is not artificial, fake or unnatural in any way. It is love that represents the very essence of the soul. Similar to the awareness of one's primal identity, which has always existed, this kind of love cannot be questioned. It is simply there.
A mentally healthy person is also able to love unconditionally. That means that those people accept others for what they are, they support the independence of other people, their viewpoints and goals. They are also able to love others in a non-active or ruthless way. This means that they openly express themselves and are not afraid to confront other people, sometimes leaving the relationship which offers no better solution at the moment.
8. The possibility to evaluate one's experiences, relationships and life
In order to fill our mind with positive contents, our subconscious must be cleared from all the suppressed negativity. Our higher conscious, at the same time, has to be connected with our conscious mind, enabling us to have a meaningful life. The connection with our higher consciousness will also provide us a way for evaluating our experiences and actions in a correct and natural way. The soul is a kind of perfect matrix used for evaluating our life in accordance with the ideals within, and not outside of us. The soul, therefore, has a practical value in the therapeutic process, because it can represent the starting or finishing point for a therapeutic intervention.
9. The awareness of creative emptiness as a soul's original essence
Apart from the awareness of one's primal identity and goals, the meaning of life and the possibility of correct evaluation of one's life, a healthy soul is characterized by the awareness of creative emptiness as the soul's original essence. So, after establishing healthy forms of existence, we come to non-existence. Everything manifested has its source in a nonmanifested world. It is important to have an experience of non-manifested self because it gives a sense of balance to a person. Without the experience of nonmanifested aspect of our soul we tend to cling to the manifested world. We become too important to ourselves and our egos inflate. We cannot dissociate from ourselves properly and, therefore, we cannot be creative.
This aspect of a healthy soul is not so widely known and that is why it deserves a special attention. A number of spiritual schools mention that the primal essence of our soul is creative emptiness, but probably the most well known story about this kind of understanding is the one coming from the tradition of Chinese Zen Buddhism. This anecdote tells us about Hui Neng (637-713), the sixth patriarch of Chinese Zen, who started as an illiterate Cantonese peasant and later became the head of a Buddhist monastery.
Hui Neng's first spiritual experience was rather spontaneous. It has happened while he was working in a field where he heard someone reciting sutras, the holy Buddhist texts. Soon after that, he went to a nearby monastery to ask about his experience and get further instructions. Because of his modest origin, the patriarch arranged for him to work in the monastery kitchen and stable. After some time the patriarch announced that he was soon going to die and was looking for a successor who would also succeed all the symbols of his position. This honor was to be given to the person who was able to express the essence of his understanding of Zen, using the form of a short poem. One of the monks, who was expected to be the patriarch successor, was the first to try. According to Allan Watts, his poem went something like this:
"Our body is like unto the Bodhi-tree,
And the mind to a mirror bright;
Carefully we cleanse them hour by hour
Lest dust should fall upon them."
Since Hui Neng was illiterate, he asked another monk to read what his rival had written and then told him to write down the following:
"Neither is there Bodhi-tree
Nor yet a mirror bright;
Since in reality all is void,
Whereon can the dust fall?"
After having read Hui Neng's poem, the head of the monastery recognized a true understanding in it, different from the bookish knowledge of the first poem, and made him his successor. While his rival tried to describe the processes of mental cleansing and meditation in his poem, Hui Neng understood the truth of the very essence of his own soul. It is not only clean by its nature, but also empty. From that point of view, meditation and cleansing processes are, therefore, unnecessary.
Understanding the primal essence of our being, however, does not mean the complete absence of negative reality models. To reach a certain level of consciousness is different from being thoroughly purified and realized. Our soul is by its original nature clean and empty. But, from the point of view of the dual, manifested or relative world, it is our mind which is full of different contents - the thoughts and feelings. Many of them can be extremely negative. Numerous Zen monks and practitioners of the Direct Experience of Truth Intensive have faced this unpleasant fact, although they might have reached the satori or a so-called permanent enlightenment. In spite of the fact that they have achieved a high level of enlightenment using different techniques, they have not cleansed their minds from negative models and will therefore continue to face negative mental states. Stories of Zen monks who become depressed or even suicidal after having achieved enlightenment are not at all unusual. We have to take into account the character of mental problems and negative inner processes that fill seemingly empty and "enlightened" mind. It is, therefore, necessary to know how to deal with negative mental contents. In the process of inner purification the experience of original essence of our soul as creative void has a significant role. It has a highly practical value and can help us to quickly and successfully remodel our inner reality.
It is possible to experience the primal essence of one's soul as creative emptiness through the method of designing mental contents known under the more attractive name of the Excalibur. The first level of the course finishes with the "final process", an initiation which directly enables each participant to become aware of his/her soul's primal essence as a creative emptiness. This experience drastically changes one's consciousness, enabling one to use techniques of creating and dissolving mental contents in a much more effective way. I have already mentioned that the state of emptiness is a creative state. The experience of a clear and empty soul enables quick and easy cleansing of any mental content. It further enables the free creation and discreation of mental contents. Only complete independence from inner states will enable a person to influence them. When we are attached to a certain content, it has a power over us and we cannot be creative. If this is the case, we either tend to look for a certain type of creative solution, or we try to avoid some other solution. Each creative block is a consequence of inner inflexibility or tension caused by attachment to the outcome. Creative emptiness, on the other hand, brings spontaneity and ease. It ensures a person a complete cleansing of mental contents and free reconstruction of positive inner states as prerequisite conditions for the successful realization of goals. One should bear in mind that mental states change and that the empty and clear mind left behind them has a practical value in the process of inner transformation.
A HEALTHY SPIRIT
Mental health should be the basis for spiritual experience. It is not advisable to long so much for spiritual experience without attaining mental health, i.e. without working on mental health simultaneously. Some spiritually realized people, who have taken over the role of spiritual leaders or healers, have forgotten the period they spent gaining their mental health and they, therefore, over stress the importance of the spiritual experience. The spiritual experience is superior to the experience of the soul - it is much deeper and more encompassing. It also has a stronger influence on the individual's consciousness. However, a person who has not attained a wholeness of the soul will not be able to understand or present spiritual experience properly. Speaking in practical terms this means that gaining spiritual experience cannot be motivated by the needs of the soul such as a harmonious relationship with our family, partner or friends or developing our creativity, clearing mental blocks or negative identifications.
If we are mentally healthy and have fulfilled our basic needs in life, we will be able to start gaining spiritual experience. But, if a person has not fulfilled the above stated criteria for mental health, then he/she has to concentrate on priorities and only then can work on a kind of superstructure in life. Karmic problems definitely have cause in spiritual impurities, too. A person trying to solve his/her karmic problem will, therefore, inevitably have to gain spiritual experience and clean spiritual impurities at one period of his/her development. Until that time, it would be better to treat his/her problems as psychological ones and not involve God in them too much. If, nevertheless, the problem is still not solved after cleansing traumatic experiences and their psychological consequences, one can begin his/her spiritual cleansing.
Unnecessary involvement in the spiritual, without attaining mental health first, can sometimes seem quite comical or even grotesque and very often dangerous. Many people have considerably destabilized their psychological balance by getting involved in the spiritual world too early. No wonder people say that getting preoccupied with the spiritual can make you go insane. The problem, however, is not in the spirit, but in not being psychologically ready. People often rush into the world of spirituality to compensate for their own psychological complexes, but true spiritual experience brings all psychological impurities to the surface rapidly. If a person starts to suppress them, maybe his/her psyche will not be able to endure the pressure and the person will break inside. On the other hand, if there is a good basis for it, spiritual experience can be the prime goal and the highest fulfillment in one's life. Lacking a good basis, spiritual experience can become an excuse for avoiding everyday responsibilities, an excuse for dogmatism and fanaticism and, in extreme cases, for different forms of destructive behavior. For that reason I stress the importance of mental (and physical) health as a true condition for preoccupying oneself with the spiritual.
Characteristics of the spiritual experience
However easily physical health may be measured and however easily mental health may be described, that much more is spiritual health neither possible to measure nor easy to describe. The reason for this lies in the nature of spiritual experience - it stands outside the dual categories, because it belongs to a world of unity. Therefore, it is very difficult to speak about the healthy state of the spirit. Numerous mystics have tried to describe spiritual experience for centuries, but they never got any further than indications. They often paid spiritual students a lip service by teaching them numerous prejudices. Spiritual experience is subjective, as well as the experience of the soul. The difference is in the fact that there is still a process in the experience of the soul, because it is possible to understand it through a process. There is also a center there - the bearer of consciousness (Self), whereas in the spiritual experience there is no process and sometimes there is a center and sometimes there is not. The experience of the spirit is much wider than that of the soul. For the lack of a better term it is usually called the experience of God.
The experience of the soul is limited to an individual creation called self or soul. The experience of the spirit, however, includes the experience of the very essence of overall reality, the whole manifested and non-manifested universe. The experience of the spirit is much subtler than that of the soul, which makes it difficult to talk about. I would, nevertheless, still like to say something about the healthy state of spirit, because I think it is necessary to note the difference between the soul and the spirit. These two levels are often taken as something similar, which creates misunderstandings or even neglects the existence of one of the two dimensions, usually the spirit.
Besides being physical beings, humans also have souls, they are the souls. The soul needs physical body to experience life in the material realm. Therefore, our physical bodies reflect our souls, their source is the soul. But what is the origin of the soul? It is the spirit. All souls were created by the spirit. Although we live in numerous physical bodies, our true self is our soul. The soul is being born only once and it will cease to exist as an individual entity when it returns to its source, to the spirit.
Although immaterial, the soul still belongs to the world of duality. Therefore, the experience of the soul is still a process. It is also possible to experience the soul directly, without a process, but we cannot experience the spirit in any other way but directly. It is because the experience of spirit brings us to the world of unity. A direct experience of somebody or something implies an assimilation of the object and subject, of the consciousness of the person who perceives and the object of perception. All other experiences are indirect because there is still a process involved in them, be it watching, listening, thinking, touching, smelling or tasting. The same is valid for different types of extrasensory perception, such as intuition, clairvoyance or telepathy because however subtle they may be, they still belong to the domain of processes. A direct experience is not the one implying a process, but an inner state characterized by a complete absence of any processes. It is difficult to talk about something that is not a process, because our mind understands the absence of process as the absence of experience.
A direct spiritual experience is widely known under the term enlightenment. Although different people may interpret types and levels of enlightenment in different ways, there are four main types of enlightenment, depending on how stable and all-embracing it is. If such an experience does not last longer than a split second and is followed by the person's slipping out from the state of unity, it is called a short-term enlightenment (known in Zen as kensho). If it is a stable spiritual experience, without disturbing the person's state of unity and if the person is able sustain it, it is called a permanent enlightenment (known in Zen as satori and in Yoga as samadhi). When this type of experience includes perceiving one as the center of experience ("Self" as the bearer of consciousness) it is called "the state of unity with a seed" or sabidja samadhi. When one is not perceived as the center, when the spiritual experience includes all the reality without the individual "Self", it is called nirbidja samadhi or "the state of unity without a seed". Nevertheless, whatever type or depth, the essence of enlightenment is the direct experience of the spiritual reality or God.
So far, mystics have used different means to communicate the essence of the mystical experience, such as silence, paradox or metaphor. Many of them have felt rather stupid because a direct experience is not a process, and nothing much can be said about it. Nowadays we know that the essence of the mystical experience, if we want to express it in words, is within the direct experience of somebody or something. If there is no process between one's mind as a perception subject, and another human being as a perception object, it is called the experience of spiritual reality. All other "spiritual" experiences attained through a process are not experiences of the spirit at all, but the experiences of someone's mental concepts or prejudices of spiritual reality. Our perception of what we think is "spiritual world" only reflects our highest values or the most abstract reality we know. Such indirect experiences of the "spiritual world" can cause positive consequences, but sometimes it causes unwanted consequences, because in some cases such prejudices can be rather distorted. Wars motivated by different religions prove how negative those consequences can be. A direct experience of the spirit will never urge a person to any kind of negative action. Therefore, it can be easily seen through a person’s behavior whether his/her experience of spiritual reality was a real experience or just a prejudice.
The following inner states, values and behavior, among many other things, indicate the existence of a healthy spirit:
- innocence (freedom from guilt)
- unity (freedom from doubt)
- simplicity (freedom from neurosis)
- spontaneity (freedom from inhibitions)
- omnipresent goodness (freedom from evil)
- mercy and compassion (freedom from egotism)
- universal love (freedom from alienation)
- daring love (freedom from fear)
- omniscience (freedom from ignorance)
- devotion and letting go (freedom from resistance)
- truthfulness and sincerity (freedom from lies)
- flexibility and tolerance (freedom from rigidity)
- power and strength (freedom from weakness)
- peace (freedom from conflict)
- creativity (freedom from slavery)
- liberty and independence (freedom from suffering).
Any comment on these inner states is absolutely unnecessary. Those states are only the consequences of a spiritual experience, because the pure experience cannot be described by the means of the dual world (words). Aims at attaining omniscience or innocence without a concrete spiritual experience as the source of the mentioned qualities and skills, will not be of much use. Although it is possible to describe the consequences of a spiritual experience, it is important to stress the value of the experience itself, and the paradox is that this experience cannot be adequately described. I am, therefore, not going to add anything else for the time being, but I would like to encourage the reader to have his own experience. The method for inducing a mystical experience is described under the title The Direct Experience of Truth Intensive which deals with spiritual techniques enabling mystical experience.
©Tomislav Budak (May, 2000)