Negative mental conditions or pathological processes in the psyche or soul are a direct inner manifestation of a traumatic experience as the leading cause of human problems. Pathological processes in the psyche will create pathological processes in the body and a pathological attitude toward God. Most therapeutic systems study and treat different pathological processes at the soul and spirit level, but little has been said about a healthy soul and a healthy spirit. Therefore, before dealing with the pathology, defining a healthy condition for the soul and spirit would be advisable. I will also add some ideas about a healthy body.
A HEALTHY BODY
It is easy to define a healthy body since it can be measured with different instruments. A healthy body is usually not influenced by any pathological processes we call illnesses. Adding to this definition, a healthy body functions well at any age. A healthy physical body functions during all periods of human life, although in accordance with age. From my point of view, some spiritual teachings overstress the importance of physical abilities. Some go as far as the idea of the immortality of the physical body as a sign of spiritual realization and treat aging as an illness. Aging is a natural process, but it is not natural to have a completely dysfunctional body, at least for 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 older 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 one that 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 a 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 they really are. Such understanding can be directly expressed by the phrase “I am myself.” The person is aware that their original identity is always the same, regardless of the role played at the moment. Such a person knows they are 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 feels they have always existed as a soul. If we know who we are, we can live and act from within ourselves. We will not need to identify ourselves with phony or unsuitable roles. An individual who knows who they are will be able to accept themselves for who they are.
2. Possibility to intentionally influence inner states of mind
A person with a healthy soul will not resist any content of their mind and will not stay in an unwanted condition, either. A mentally healthy individual does not personally produce obstacles to realizing their desires or goals. The world of a mentally healthy person is full of desirable mental content, positive thoughts, and emotions. When harmful mental conditions do occur, such an individual will know how to turn them into positive ones. A mentally healthy person can intentionally influence the contents of their mind.
3. The inner connectedness
A healthy soul is also characterized by inner connectedness, enabling free communication between all its aspects. It means one can communicate easily with one’s subconscious and higher consciousness. Such a person can also communicate verbally and easily adjust to the 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 can translate their reality models into their 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 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 the 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 mature person, and awareness of all the other characteristic archetypes of one’s psyche. A whole person is independent and able to make decisions. Such an individual knows how to deal with conflicts between their own parts and can also discover in themselves specific characteristics or resources needed to realize different goals.
Apart from awareness of one’s identity, a healthy psyche enables one to create a positive feeling about one’s 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 transparent, 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 that it creates its own life and takes full responsibility for this. A healthy soul knows that creating one’s life begins with realizing one’s goals and continually trying to become aware of them. Such individuals are aware that the meaning of their lives cannot be something outside of the boundaries of their 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, fulfill 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 of evaluating one’s experiences, relationships, and life
To fill our minds with positive content, our subconscious must be cleared of all the suppressed negativity. At the same time, our higher consciousness has to be connected with our conscious mind, enabling us to have a meaningful life. Connecting with our higher consciousness will also allow us to evaluate our experiences and actions correctly and naturally. The soul is a perfect matrix for assessing our life according to 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 essential to experience a non-manifested self because it gives a sense of balance to a person. Without the experience of the non-manifested aspect of our soul, we tend to cling to the manifested world. We become too vital to ourselves, and our egos inflate. We cannot dissociate from ourselves properly, so we cannot be creative.
This aspect of a healthy soul is not so widely known, which is why it deserves special attention. Several spiritual schools mention that the primal essence of our soul is creative emptiness, but probably the. Still, probably the most well-known story about this kind of understanding comes 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. While he was working in a family-owned shop, he heard a passer-by reciting verses from the Diamond Sutra, one of the holy Buddhist texts. Soon after, 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 would soon 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 could 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’s 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 reading Hui Neng’s poem, the head of the monastery recognized a proper understanding of 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 soul. It is not only clean by its nature but also empty. From that point of view, meditation and cleansing processes are, therefore, unnecessary.
However, understanding the primal essence of our being does not mean the complete absence of negative reality models. Reaching a certain level of consciousness differs 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, our mind is full of different contents – thoughts and feelings. Many of them can be highly damaging. Numerous Zen monks and practitioners of the Enlightenment Intensive have faced this unpleasant fact, although they might have reached the satori or so-called permanent enlightenment. Even though they have achieved a high level of enlightenment using different techniques, they have not cleansed their minds from negative models. They 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” minds. It is, therefore, necessary to know how to deal with negative mental content. In the process of inner purification, the experience of the original essence of our soul as a creative void has a significant role. It has an efficient value and can help us to remodel our inner reality quickly and successfully.
It is possible to experience the primal essence of one’s soul as creative emptiness using the Discreation Formula that can be learned in the Transformation of Karmic Patterns level 2 course. It finishes with the “final process,” an initiation that enables each participant to become aware of their soul’s primal essence as a creative emptiness. This experience drastically changes one’s consciousness, allowing one to use techniques of creating and dissolving mental content much more effectively. I have already mentioned that the state of emptiness is creative. The experience of a clear and empty soul enables quick and easy cleansing of any mental content. It further allows the free creation and discreation of mental content. Only complete independence from inner states will allow a person to influence them. When we are attached to a specific content, it has a power over us, and we cannot be creative. If this is the case, we either look for a particular creative solution or try to avoid another solution. Each creative block results from 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 successfully realizing goals. One should remember that mental states change and that the empty and clear mind left behind has a practical value in 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, overstress 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 yet to attain a wholeness of the soul cannot understand or present spiritual experiences properly. Practically speaking, this means that gaining spiritual experience cannot be motivated by the soul’s needs, such as a harmonious relationship with our family, partner, or friends, o developing our creativity, clearing mental blocks, or negative identifications.
If we are mentally healthy and have fulfilled our basic needs in life, we can start gaining spiritual experience. But, if a person has not fulfilled the above-stated criteria for mental health, they have to concentrate on priorities and only then can work on a kind of superstructure in life. Karmic problems definitely have a cause in spiritual impurities, too. Therefore, a person trying to solve their karmic problem will inevitably have to gain spiritual experience and clean spiritual impurities at one period of their development. Until then, it would be better to treat their 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 their 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 psychological complexes, but actual spiritual experience brings all psychological impurities to the surface rapidly. If a person starts to suppress them, their psyche may be unable to endure the pressure, and the person will break inside. On the other hand, if there is a reasonable basis for it, the spiritual experience can be the prime goal and the highest fulfillment in one’s life. Lacking a reasonable basis, the 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. Therefore, I stress the importance of mental (and physical) health as a proper 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, spiritual health is neither possible to measure nor easy to explain. 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 lip service by teaching them numerous prejudices. Spiritual experience is subjective, as well as the experience of the soul. The difference is 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 broader 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 very essence of overall reality, the whole manifested and non-manifested universe. 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 the 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 souls. The soul needs a 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. The spirit created all souls. Although we live in numerous physical bodies, our true self is our soul. The soul is being born only once and will cease to exist as an individual entity when it returns to its source, 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 implies not 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 lack 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 differently, 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 can sustain it, it is called 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, 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 but the experiences of someone’s mental concepts or prejudices of spiritual reality. Our perception of what we think is a “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 they cause unwanted implications because, in some cases, such prejudices can be somewhat 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 adverse action. Therefore, it can be easily seen through a person’s behavior whether their experience of spiritual reality was a real experience or just a prejudice.
The following inner states, values, and behaviors, 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 Enlightenment Intensive.
©Tomislav Budak (May, 2000)