You can tell when you have touched a nerve. My article ‘The Dangers of Spiritual Healing’ (The Sunday Gleaner – July 28, 2019) had not even cooled before email alerts started sounding off. I triggered a heated response for daring to caution against healing practices, such as Reiki. The puritans, blowhards, and defenders of the faith would have none of it.
Here are two emails worth sharing:
“While some of your points may be true for some modalities, much of what you wrote in your article does not apply to Reiki at all. I would recommend you speak to experienced professional Reiki practitioners to clear up your misunderstandings then issue a revised statement.”
The other was a mix of commentary and advertisement for a quixotic healing method using the drug Ayahuasca:
“Some of this article is true, a lot of its claims are false. It isn’t dangerous. We don’t use our own energy for Reiki healing. That’s not how it works. We allow Reiki (life force energy) to flow through us to heal others. It isn’t our energy. We are simply a conduit for the energy to flow through. It isn’t dangerous at all. It is a very healing and a wonderful experience. The truth behind it is that energy blockages create physical disease. Once the block is released, the healing can take place. I would suggest you learn more about it before writing another article on it. Maybe, start with Ayahuasca ceremony weekend at Soul Quest in Orlando Florida first? That will answer your questions.”
Imagine being told to reissue my statement and “learn more before writing about Reiki”, followed by an invitation for readers to explore Ayahuasca, a hallucinogen and potentially problematic drug used to access the unconscious self.
I read these two emails and smiled. And it was then I realised that born-again religionists (Christians and Muslims come to mind) are not the only people infected with self-righteousness. New Agers, occultists, and so-called mystics (the growing ‘woke’ movement against organised religion) could be as dogmatic, unbending, irrational, and annoying as any traditional (religious) fanatic. What strange bedfellows they make.
They all hold that they have found truth, never acknowledging that truth is always coloured by our personal lens. For the most part, we pedal our own version of truth. Indeed, for all our gifts, none among us has experienced enlightenment, and in death, none will return to genuinely instruct on the complexities of life. In fact, not even the spirits have full knowledge of the Absolute. Like us, they can only opine.
New Agers, in looking for the ultimate spiritual experience, dance daily with danger. Why would any teacher or shaman give a hallucinogen to retreatants that he does not really know? Reconciling parts of the unconscious self can take years of personal analysis. Why attend a retreat to have the door to your unconscious swing open with the use of drugs? Unconscionably, the writer of the email who invited us “to come to soul quest in Florida” is a danger to himself and others.
Defenders of their faith, whatever that (faith) might be, possess particular characteristics and personality traits. They are unabashed and punctilious; garrulous, arrogant, outwardly pious, and obdurate. In extreme cases, they flaunt their ostensible exceptionalism. Doesn’t every Christian sect believe that it teaches the sure way to salvation? And doesn’t every New Age outfit think that it has unravelled the mysteries of the Cosmos?
But behind this veneer of assured knowledge are individuals who are empty as a drum.
Suffering with chronic feelings of aloneness, they gravitate to a movement, a temple or a church to find meaning, validation and relevance. It gives them an identity they never had. Vapid and void of purpose, they search or were shepherded into their new faith, a faith that they must defend at all costs. Any criticism they view as a direct attack on their personhood, hence they respond, almost instinctively.
With their self-worth and self-image seemingly in jeopardy, they must correct or destroy their critic.
They must hold on to the canons of their faith, their safety net, their raison d’etre, impairing all reason and independent thought in the process.
And for the writer who asked me to revise my comments in his favour, I will do no such thing.
We must be left alone to experience our own truth. This is the only path to authentic growth and self-actualisation.
Swedish psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who was himself a dabbler, came up with the term, inviduation. He meant the process by which all impulses and conflicts of the unconscious self are reconciled. A whole person emerges – liberated – free of guilt and inner conflicts. Moreover, such an individual no longer needs validation from his peers or society; neither does the individual need to defend, promote his beliefs or proselytise.
In The Development of Personality, Jung challenges groupthink. He posed the question, “What is it, in the end, that induces a man to go his own way and to rise out of unconscious identity with the masses, as out of a swathing mist?”
He offered this response: “It is what is commonly called vocation: an irrational factor that destines a man to emancipate himself from the herd and from its well-worn paths. Anyone with a vocation hears that voice of his inner man: he is called.”
Surely, we must be left alone to find truth, for our own sake. Such is the only path to wisdom.
– Dr Glenville Ashby is a graduate of the Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, California. He is the award-winning author of the audiobook, Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, or tweet @glenvilleashby.