This article is the latest in a series on the theme of whether we can find a new mythology, a common visionary story, to unite humanity in an attempt to solve the world’s problems. In earlier articles I have discussed the relevant science, and the religion and spirituality. Here I’ll turn my attention to the psychology. (For a guide to the whole series, see under Mythology near the bottom of the Blog Index page.)
A true understanding of psychology would be important in any new mythology; it can be thought of as a sub-section of science. Many modern scientists do not believe in psychology in the true sense of the word, the study of the psyche. They believe that the brain is responsible for all manifestations of consciousness, failing to understand that the psyche is a completely separate reality, albeit one that human consciousness has access to. Thus Richard Dawkins urges us to study “proper scientific psychology”, and therefore to reject the ideas of Freud and Jung. Francis Crick opens his book The Astonishing Hypothesis: the Scientific Search for the Soul: “This book is about the mystery of consciousness — how to explain it in scientific terms”. (By ‘scientific’ he of course means ‘materialist’.) He continues by saying that the explanations of philosophers “do not have the ring of scientific truth”¹. His ‘Astonishing Hypothesis’ is that: “ ‘You’, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules”. He concedes, however, that “this hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people alive today that it can truly be called astonishing”².
And most people alive today, I would suggest, are correct in rejecting such ideas. These are precisely the ideas that any forward-looking psychology must reject. I am not a fan of Roman Catholicism, but even the Catholic catechism that Crick quotes is closer to the truth than his materialist delusions: “The soul is a living being without a body, having reason and free will”.
Relevant topics in any psychology are the nature of consciousness, the self, and personality. It is obviously important to have as true an understanding of these as possible, which is something of a challenge, since there is something mysterious about each of them. It is easier to outline what should be rejected, namely psychologies emerging from scientific materialism, those which claim:
- that the experience of self is an illusion
- that consciousness is a by-product (epiphenomenon) of the brain
- that consciousness is therefore contained within the body (what has been called the skin-encapsulated ego), which denies the possibility of extrasensory perception, out-of-body experiences, and near-death experiences
- that consciousness dies with the body
- that there are no other levels of consciousness, specifically that there is no Higher Self.
Much of current neuroscience should therefore be rejected. We should turn instead to psychologies which are not afraid to embrace spiritual ideas of a soul, Higher Self, out-of-body experiences, ESP, and so on. Examples would therefore be:
- Depth Psychology, for example, that provided by Carl Jung and his followers. (He used the term Analytical Psychology to distinguish his understanding from Freud’s Psychoanalysis).
- Transpersonal Psychology. The very word ‘transpersonal’ suggests that there is a psychology beyond the person, that we are not isolated individuals. This is in line with the ideas of interconnectedness and wholeness, which are core ideas of the new science.
Transpersonal Psychology emerged as a movement in the 1960s out of Humanistic Psychology through “interest in the neglected psychological realms of mystical experiences, transcendence, ecstasy, cosmic consciousness, meditation, and inter-individual and inter-species synergy”³, and was inspired by the work of Jung, Roberto Assagioli⁴, and Abraham Maslow. In a nutshell, what Transpersonal Psychology has to offer is a willingness to explore consciousness beyond the ego, other levels of reality, the higher self, and spiritual intelligence. It goes without saying that materialistic neuroscience has no interest in such topics, except perhaps to dismiss them as illusions.
The above gives a broad outline of the type of psychology that I believe is relevant to the new worldview, and I assume that many readers will be familiar with the names mentioned. In the next article I would therefore like to draw attention to a team of writers who are probably less well known. They work under the general editorship of Edward F. Kelly. One important book is Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality⁵, something which the world desperately needs. I’ll concentrate, however, on an earlier book, Irreducible Mind⁶, since its subtitle Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century obviously connects with my theme here. (Click here for this next article.)
1. Simon & Schuster, 1994, Preface, Pxi
2. ibid., p3
3. Stanislav Grof, who was the first president of the International Transpersonal Association, in Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1984, Pviii
4. Assagioli was the founder of Psychosynthesis, an outstanding example of a Transpersonal Psychology. An excellent introduction to that would be Jean Hardy’s book, A Psychology with a Soul: Psychosynthesis is Evolutionary Context, Arkana, 1989.
5. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015
6. Rowman & Littlefield, 2010