Spirituality, and psychological self- and other-scrutiny - Printable Version

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Spirituality, and psychological self- and other-scrutiny - Asolsutsesvyl - 02-21-2021

Psychologizing -- A big, complex topic, tied both to solving messy problems and sometimes to creating others. Understanding self and others better, and honoring psychological reality instead of hurtful falsifications of it, is very important. But clever people often fool both themselves and others, whether in good faith or in bad faith, whether more naively or as part of calculated schemes aiming at control, etc.

Which things are genuinely more deep and difficult to know at this level -- and which things can be explained in full by standard textbooks or therapists using their knowledge in a formulaic way?

Sometimes, the soul is psychologized away in a reductionistic way. Not only by those sticking to pure materialistic thought, whether behavioristic, cognitivistic, etc. -- but also by those mixing it with ideas from philosophy and spirituality. For more on how this happens in society at large, here's a good article focusing on the commercialization of "mindfulness".

For well-educated spiritual people, a different type of trap can appear. Often, what some accept as credible spiritual explanations are not credible to others. What some see as related to soul or spirit is not accepted as such by others. Validity of spiritual experience of many types is a vast area of oftentimes stormy controversy. What do you explain using psychology and what do you explain using spiritual principles, in cases where your worldview forces you to choose between those two?

Very generally, modern psychology and findings about cognitive biases, irrationality, etc., can explain a great deal. But if you also concern yourself with trying to understand a multi-level reality, where consciousness and being can exist on more than one plane and interact across them, then modeling reality cannot be done by always choosing between the worlds of conventional psychology and standard spiritual teachings. Syntheses which do not discard either part of the picture are then the only explanations which can possibly be complete.

Such synthesis may be difficult to do, but also essential for intellectual understanding. I've seen, in the Cassiopaea community, what happens when spiritual principles are used side by side with materialistic psychology in the long term without integrating the ideas into a coherent whole. As psychological knowledge was gathered and became more complete, it swallowed up most focus, in that case. In practice, people will selectively ignore whatever they end up valuing less the most, when they have two incompatible worldviews at the same time.

I have only partially bridged the gap for personal purposes, but the core of that is very simple. Cognitive stuff applies to the physical brain-mind, while the real subconscious is more multidimensional: there is both the information processing circuitry studied by materialistic science, and its role in everything given its experiential shape by the physical brain, and that which is "connected to" and "using" the physical vehicle as a vessel, i.e. that which incarnated. The soul and spirit is mostly subconscious from the perspective of the physical self, but to some degree can operate the brain-mind as a "device" of sorts. Various frameworks of spiritual development, e.g. both Law of One and especially Fourth Way, touch on how that which has incarnated can become like a driver in better control of a more fully directable vehicle.

Regarding other-selves, historically religious and spiritual teachings and mentalities have often made a mess of how people relate to others. When some researchers claim that spiritualists tend to relativise away the truth and be irresponsible pricks who view themselves as better than most others for no reason, while all evidence is to the contrary, they often have a point. Spirituality is one of several main ways in which self-centered people elevate themselves above others while pretending to devote themselves to a selfless cause (which they have the unique inspiration to know better than others just how truly important it is). There's also other ways self-centered people do that too, of course, entirely besides spirituality.

The point is that understanding of psychological reality is often on shaky ground in spiritual communities, and the lives of the kinds of people involved in them. That's also the case in some other types of fringe circles, but spiritual circles may possibly give the greatest amount of distortion of reality for the largest portion of people. There's several characteristic patterns of distortion that appear in communities with different "temperaments". This community and the Cassiopaea community, for example, are rather different, though this community is quite generally not an extreme place. Arguably it may have been more extreme in the past.

You probably know of the pattern of small groups who view themselves as part of, or even at the core of, a super-important cartoonish superhero vs. supervillain battle for the fate of the world. Or angels vs. evil archons with super-mighty abstract special effects in the background. Paranoia, egocentricity, and the Matrix-style "You're either one of us, or one of them [the agents of The Matrix]." A different way of phrasing the same thing is, the George W. Bush-style approach to spirituality: "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists." Instead of terrorists, think "theorists who persist in trying to debunk us". Theorist threats can be serious. (There's also more purely intellectual movements which begin to approach a similar cult-like flavor.)

A different pattern is that of those who imagine that passivity and blind acceptance will cure all ills. Just love -- or imagine that you're loving -- and salvation will come, or if it doesn't, all is still right. When combined with an anti-intellectual ignoring of context, this results in the kind of self-defeating, self-destructive patterns that critics of New Age spirituality love to mock. A related form of naive focus is when people imagine that simply imagining light will turn the self or even all into light, etc., and keep doing that year after year instead of solving the problems they've repeatedly ran into. This paragraph may be a bit offensive to some in the community, but I think on the whole that people here are not so extreme, and it could be way worse -- think those who "go fundie" and embrace extreme fact-resistance with a New Age flavor.

People often face problems with other-selves, and it often comes to asking others for advice, including in communities like this. It can be family relations of various kinds, or work, other kinds of organizations, etc. Here, while there's a large focus on open-hearted spiritual abstractions, people still have a healthy taste for some down-to-Earth advice from time to time. But psychological knowledge is not nearly as large a focus as in the Cassiopaea forum (thread) -- where it both helps and hurts.

On the Cassiopaea forum, a great emphasis has been placed on psychologizing. There's both good parts and bad parts to it all, and here I'd like to lift out the more thoughtworthy things that are not about the outstanding problems with that community. I used to maintain their recommended books list from late 2012 to early 2015, beginning with updates for a time in that community when a greatly expanded range of psychological literature was being discussed there.

The older book suggestions for psychology had a main important theme -- narcissism. The point is that it's an important general theme in human relations, because there's not only the smaller number of hurtful narcissists, but a larger number of people wounded in many kinds of ways who each as a result end up with emotional buttons and blind spots, which can end up having results like mild forms of narcissistic patterns. Most people get at least a few significant psychological scars earlier in life, and each of those can make awareness of reality selective in some way impacting relations with others. And so, work on the self to genuinely become more positively spiritual, best includes trying to sort that out, so as to avoid making a mess of both one's own life and those of others.

Here, if you think a bit about where psychologizing based on such knowledge can lead, it can greatly help those who grew up with a narcissistic parent or other comparable toxic influence. Such people -- if they are interested, and unfortunately some develop blind spots making them completely uninterested -- may benefit the most from such knowledge for healing and improving their lives. It does not, however, usually help people who are more strongly narcissistic and hurt others -- telling a parent who always knows best and doesn't feel your pain about such patterns, even to point out how that parent may have been hurt by even worse parents and a possible path to healing, likely won't help at all. The blind spot in such a person is often a perfect brick wall closing off all reality in that direction, permanently, for life -- something children of narcissistic parents often have to struggle to come to accept, as a sad but plain fact (because they hunger for the understanding they never got earlier in life). But there may be rare exceptions.

People less in the thick of such dramas may also benefit from such information, to help make sense of both their own lives and the lives of others. And if of interest for whatever reason, I could share the good old book recommendations.

(At this point, I'm going to branch off briefly into mentioning another lesson to be learned from the Cassiopaea community -- a main lesson for those who leave that fold. It's to see how narcissistic minds can use great psychological knowledge as a weapon, creating double standards, straining at flies and swallowing elephants, convincing themselves and perhaps others too, to accept their falsifications of reality, and their explanations for why others are rotten based on selective and disproportionate evaluation of evidence -- occasionally mixed with wild imaginings, or the rare bold lie carefully thrown into the mix and then repeated again and again. It's a more intellectually sophisticated version of deceptive rhetoric, which more ordinary narcissists may use in cruder and more overtly childish forms.)

The later recommended books of the Cassiopaea forum embraced the newer findings of cognitive science about flaws in thinking and more. How do people generally go wrong, again and again, because of how the human brain works? Some newer books seek to obsolete the older self-help genre by providing scientifically sound ideas about problematic patterns and how people can take them into account and hopefully make better decisions accordingly. How to truly change deeply ingrained habits, etc.?

Such exploration can be useful, and sometimes, faulty thinking is just faulty thinking and not a spiritual nudge. (Though I do speculate that souls sometimes use their brains like artists and create ideas and more without caring about errors piling up, in order to realize practical, and/or perhaps artistic, purposes. I think mystics often work like that, including myself at times.) And if you learn about the types of bad judgment which people are generally prone to, it can sometimes help in a situation where you face such a tendency. For example, let's say you are deeply personally invested in something on more than one level and then learn it was all bogus and is a slow-motion trainwreck in progress. Cut your losses, or stay on to the end? Inborn bias may tell you to stay on, because you've already invested so much. Rationally, however, what's lost is lost whatever you do, and staying on only means losing more, and it pays to see beyond the "sunken cost fallacy" and cut it short.

All psychological knowledge which tells you something about better vs. worse judgment and decisions can potentially be used to learn to see beyond blind spots. Including in how oneself is and lives. All of it can also, potentially, be misapplied according to blind spots it leaves untouched, furthering misunderstanding. And in general, some tend to question themselves too much, others too little, and books alone don't change such things.

RE: Spirituality, and psychological self- and other-scrutiny - Agua - 02-21-2021


RE: Spirituality, and psychological self- and other-scrutiny - MrWho - 02-21-2021

To me it is simple, the other-self acts as a mirror to help define the self.

Every expression of self, to other-self, of other-self. Is the understanding of the self.

Infinite love and light.

RE: Spirituality, and psychological self- and other-scrutiny - Asolsutsesvyl - 02-22-2021

(02-21-2021, 08:56 PM)Agua Wrote: I would view it from a different angle:

You are equalizing psychology = psychology
spirituality = spirituality

I'll try to change angle to something that seems closer to your thinking, then perhaps it'll be clearer what differences are more about language and what differences are not mainly about language.

(02-21-2021, 08:56 PM)Agua Wrote: Neither spirituality nor psychology happens outside of people, but always within people.
So it's never about spirituality but about the very person's spirituality. The same goes for psychology.

Spirituality and psychology ultimate are about "Self".
And both try to describe "Self".


Regarding psychology, in our academic system people are taught in university about Self and how it all works, they learn from books.
It is all just an intellectual understanding.
Then many stay on that level and research or maybe offer therapy.

I would say both happen between people, too, and not only inside them. Thus, there's both personal and impersonal psychology and spirituality.

If you go all the way to a transcendent view of "Self", where all is one, then sure, it's all about "Self". Such a "Self" transcends the personal. But whenever dealing with something more concrete, it turns into dealing with the many selves in the world -- including one's own -- and how they interact, and how that works. Unless you deal with it like a mystic without bothering with language, which in part you can, but that part alone cannot be communicated on this level.

But I do tend to associate psychology with something more materialistic, or alternatively, something which reduces spirituality to a more flat symbolic world. There's many things which are called psychology, some junk, some profound, and some useful but only about how physical brain tissue performs, etc. I know academic psychology is a mess.

(02-21-2021, 08:56 PM)Agua Wrote: We live in a very intellect based and academic society.
In our society it's absolutely normal people talk about, teach and publish books about things they don't even know. As long as it sounds academic, it's cool Wink

If you look at from which aspect of Self people describe "Self" it gets clearer what I mean.

I'm familiar with the basic perspective. Gurdjieff observed a century ago that people in our kind of civilization value knowledge, but generally don't value how the being of a person is and develops. How people develop, through experience and more, in their being determines what quality of understanding they can have. Without that, all that people can do is to increase the quantity of information in their minds. Understanding requires both being and knowledge, but only in areas like craftsmanship, etc., do people generally care about real understanding (because then it determines the results in a very visible way).

I agree with that. I know that some that I know is far more "flat" and limited in how well I understand it than other things. But it's of course impossible to know accurately your own gaps in understanding except by advancing your own understanding past them.

(02-21-2021, 08:56 PM)Agua Wrote: Since "Self" is not "Intellect", so,ebody describing Self from the intellect can neither grasp nor the mechanism of it. It remains very superficial and shallow, and in most cases farfrom the truth.

The same can be said about spirituality.
You cannot explore Self intellect tually, since the intellect is a part of the illusory self.
You might believe you explore Self, but you just describe that which it is not.

So if either spirituality or psychology stays on that level, there many contradictions.

How transcendental a meaning do you give to "Self" here? If very, then yeah. If not very, then I have to draw a line around the illusory world we experience together for a reason, and say that for practical purposes -- it helps self and others in this illusory world (in many ways, materially or otherwise) -- there's plenty of usefulness to the intellect and what it can produce. And like a tool, it can be used more or less well, for more or less shallow results, in connection with different things (aspects of self).

(That kind of thing -- "How transcendental" -- may be totally clear to you, but it's the kind of thing often left dangling, and I've seen many silly talking-past-each-other arguments between others due to such things simply being kept too vague in language.)

(02-21-2021, 08:56 PM)Agua Wrote: If you look at the work of the great Yogis of old, or great psychologists, great therapists, if you look at people like Aurobindo, the amazonian Shamans, just to name a few, you will see, that if you really go deep, there is no contradiction or difference for that matter between religion, spirituality, psychology, therapy and science.

When reaching real depths, you see that it's all the same. But you have to go deep.

On the surface, it's all contradicting.

Kind of, sort of. I get the "when it works, then it reaches the same essense" kind of gist.

I disagree with the binary way in which you categorize when the intellect can't be used at all, vs. when it can. I think there's a continuum where what the intellect can do becomes lesser and lesser, until it no longer has any reach. Planes, polarities, densities, etc. -- this is part of the rough means by which the intellect can join in, when one is dealing with stuff in that fuzzy continuum where the intellect is mainly a rough chronicler while the acting part of the self is centered elsewhere and less tangibly.

Roughly, I think there's several currents active in the stuff you mentioned. There's stuff that converges and stuff that diverges. Some involved in genuinely transcendental spirituality are pulled in different directions, to different destinations, than others -- there's no doubt about that from what's known about practitioners and how greatly they differ. And it's the same whether it's religion or psychology or science as the outer shell of it.

Maybe distinctions in what you claim to all be the same can be known at this level analogously to how animals can know that some landscapes are better to live in than others. Heaven and hell are both largely unfathomable, but not the same thing, and some genuine spiritual currents pull strongly towards one or the other. (You don't need the intellect to tell that there's a difference of some kind, when some personal experience of such a difference is had. And after you're convinced, then you can't be satisfied with thinking that there's only one illusory world and one real thing -- there's clearly more in-between this and "The All".)

RE: Spirituality, and psychological self- and other-scrutiny - Agua - 02-22-2021


RE: Spirituality, and psychological self- and other-scrutiny - Asolsutsesvyl - 02-22-2021

Scattered reflections branching out from that, in different directions...

Even if you explored your whole unconscious, could you then maintain awareness of it all at the same time? I doubt it, as the brain-mind filter is heavy and keeps awareness while staying in the body way, way too small to ever be capable of that. To put that a bit differently, the soul seems way too large for more than a small portion to work through the brain at a time. That's my personal view after a small number of strange years of experiencing very much inwardly, far too much to fully keep track of at the same time afterwards.

The opening post had a diffuse focus, and I didn't mean to detract from any successful soulful deep-diving. I think that the messy business of psychology-between-people-in-life, even when touching on spirituality, tends to bring the shallower end (your "5%") into focus, and especially how things at that end clash with further spiritual development, preventing it or distorting it hopelessly. And that's a topic that remains low-hanging fruit for people in general perpetually throughout history because, historically, people tend to make a mess of it.

I see people going through a large mixture of stuff. Much I couldn't possibly give them advice on, and I'm not really the type to generally think I have advice for people. Some things I recognize, however, as old patterns I'm familiar with and have learned about. It's not generally that useful to share psychological knowledge with people, because the basic gap between theory and practice in practice is not reduced by better theory. Still, since some care and perhaps may develop something good out of better information, or out of stimulation towards better information, it's not meaningless.

Also, I have some kind of itch of my own to scratch, a lot of stuff I'm concerned with being related in complex ways I'm half-consciously aware of, and following a trail towards the more essential, wherever I find it... I've had way too much stuff on my mind I've not discussed for many years. It may look tidier than it, but in part the opening post is a disorganized opening-up shaped into something that seems like it may double as hopefully helpful and at worst mostly harmless, and so nice enough to post.

In psychology, I think that what a good therapist does is more like a performance art than anything else. I've concluded that from reading about how different conventional psychological paradigms, regardless of whether they're more or less scientific, give the same results in therapy. And, also, from reading examples of how psychologists trained in different paradigms arrive at the same advice using very different theory to explain why and to elaborate. When such a system of thought is "functionally complete", in a sense, then anything can be arrived at using it -- anything! -- and that's the nature of all psychology-paradigms generally used in talk therapy. All the rest is up to the "artist" -- or therapist. Compare to shamans, who naturally embrace their performance art and make it far more effective, rather than drawing it out in time while sterilizing its contents.

More generally, I think the soul may use the body, brain, and brain-mind much like an artist uses an instrument. Accuracy in conscious thought at this level is generally only possible within very limited bounds. (But these bounds are in large part defined by what people focus on. Focus using the brain-mind is finite, reality is infinite. Paying attention to any thing means missing many things.) Unusual feats of bringing information into this world, whether the form is scientific, artistic, etc., may perhaps have a nature somewhat analogous to great feats of computer programming, if you think of the soul as using very limited hardware while better-than-normal performance often relies on knowing how to work with its quirks using nonstandard methods. Convinced that the mind at this level is simply too small for the full unconscious to be conscious at the same time, instead I've concerned myself with understanding the work of the soul as something artistic, which in part includes what I think of as "mental computational art", of which much mystical thought consists.