Metaphysics Course

This blog is a collection of essays and lesson comments from several of the Universal Life Church courses on Metaphysics. We have a Spirit Quest Course and one on A Course In Miracles.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spiritual Development

Final Essay
By Dennis Zerull

I appreciate Dr. David Crouch in authoring this course and the ULC Seminary for making it available to all students participating in this wonderful program and making a difference not only their own personal lives but making a difference in their relationship to fellow beings and communities around the world.

Today in an age when science and technology have reached a most advance stage, we are incessantly preoccupied with mundane concerns. In such an age, it is crucial that we attain faith based on various traditions of religious and non-religious teachings on the basis of genuine understanding. It is with an objective mind endowed with the curious skepticism that we should engage in careful analysis and seek reason behind our beliefs. Then on the basis of seeing the reasons, we engender a faith that is accompanied by wisdom. It is this wisdom that should be the emphasis on approaching any kind of spiritual development not just through faith and devotion but also through critical inquiry. In Buddhism for example this approach is known as the "way of the intelligent person". Another saying I'm sure many have heard is "no self, no problems". The selflessness of both the person as well as the psychophysical components of the person is another way of understanding "no self".  

In this course, NLP, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, is one of the main focuses as a method for self-improvement in achieving a higher plain of spiritual development.
It is my belief that Dr. Crouch needs to go a bit further into the history if this controversial approach to psychotherapy and organizational change based on a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behavior and the subjective experiences underlying them and a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication to change the patterns of mental and emotional behavior. We know that Richard Bandler while a UC Santa Cruz, was listening to taped portions of therapy sessions of the late Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls and Bandler believed he recognized particular word and sentence structures which facilitated Perls' therapeutic suggestions. Bandler took the idea to Linguist John Grinder and Virginia Satir to produce what the termed the meta model which gathers information and challenges a client's language and underlying thinking. It was then presented in 1975 in two volumes, The Structure of Magic I: A Book about Language and Therapy and the Structure of Magic II: A Book About Communication and Change. They believed that the   "therapeutic magick" as performed in therapy and by performers in any complex human activity, had structure that could be learned by others given appropriate models. They believed as Dr. Crouch, that implicit in the behavior was the ability to challenge distortion, generalization and deletion in a client's language. We also know that later Milton Erickson became the third model and wrote Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson, Volumes I & II. Basically it was it was a model that was vague and metaphoric in the inverse of the meta model. It was a combination used with the meta model as a type of softener, to induce a trance, and to deliver indirect therapeutic suggestion and includes the models and techniques mentioned by Dr. Crouch such as anchoring, reframing, sub modalities and representational systems. It was also a time of the so-called human potential movement and was developing into an industry. One so lucrative that Bandler and Grinder gave up academic writing and produced popular books from seminar transcripts such as Frogs into Princes.

It may seem that I am a bit skeptical about this system but as I mentioned before I do have curious skepticism when it comes to representational systems. NLP doesn't seem to concentrate on diagnosis, treatment and assessment of any disorders. Instead it focuses on help people overcome their own self-perceived, or subjective problems. And as they learn more about their problems they learn how to modify those goals further as a result of extended interaction with a therapist or teacher. But what does NLP have to do with spiritual development. Dr. Crouch explains that there is "the application of mental technologies in spiritual change". I assume those technologies which are presented throughout this course is NLP.  In all honesty I have found NLP to be a bit like a Tony Robbins seminar. I find NLP to be somewhat vague and ambiguous in its language, which can mean different things to different people. NLP tends to offer you a sort of users manual for the brain. This seems to be a metaphor as I have also hear it referred to as "software for the brain".

NLP relies heavily upon the notion of the "unconscious mind" as constantly influencing conscious thought and action. A common thread I did find in NLP is the emphasis on teaching a variety of communication and persuasion skills, and using self-hypnosis to motivate and change oneself. I certainly have no doubt that many people benefit from NLP training sessions and from these lesson but there seems to be several questionable assumptions based on such beliefs about the unconscious mind, hypnosis and the ability to influence people by appealing directly to the subconscious mind. All scientific evidence, which exists on such things, indicates that NLP claims are not necessarily accurate. You cannot learn to speak directly to the unconscious mind as Erickson and NLP claim, except in the obvious way of using the power of suggestion. We know that Einstein and Tolstoy's work as an example might produce a dozen "models" of how the mind works, but there is no way of knowing which, if any models is correct.

In lesson 18, Dr. Crouch talks about Eckhart Tolle's book "The Power of Now" and how it made an impact on his life. I can also attest to Tolle's works. I have read most if not all of his works and have attended his seminars and lecture.  He is a contemporary prolific spiritual teacher who expands on powerful ideas to show how transcending our ego-based state of consciousness is not only essential to personal happiness, but also the key to ending conflict and suffering throughout the world. In his book the Power of Now he talks about methods and "how methods are sometimes needed until they are no longer needed and should be cast aside or dropped".  An essential part of spiritual awakening is the recognition of the unawakened you, the ego as it thinks, speaks, and acts, as well as the recognition of the collectively conditioned mental process that perpetuate the unawakened state. I submit that unless you know the basic mechanics behind the workings of the ego, you won't recognize it, and it will trick you into identifying with it over and over again. It takes you over and pretends to be you. The simple act of recognition itself is on of the ways in which awakening happens. No other complicated methods or hours of writing are needed. "When you recognize the unconsciousness in you, that which makes the recognition possible is the arising consciousness, is the awakening." Eckhart Tolle, a New Earth.  Over and over again Tolle talks about living in the now and that the past and the future will always manifest themselves as the present. Therefore any method that uses projections into the future as to where your life will be is both illogical and not grounded in reason. It is of course possible to plan for the future as long as it is done in the present moment and done with understanding and reason. In my opinion NLP places outcomes on the criterion of usefulness rather than objective truth.

Metaphors for the mind conflict with what cognitive science have discovered. This does not imply that NLP would argue against the mind being embodied. The difference between researcher working on Artificial intelligence and NLP is that the first use a computer as their laboratory, while the latter uses human subjects to test their theories. Again it is vital for us to obtain genuine confidence in the nature of mind and reality, grounded in understanding and reason. As long as you are unaware of being you will seek meaning only within the dimension of doing and of future. That meaning will dissolve or turn out to have been deception and it will be destroyed by time for it is only true relatively and temporarily.

Earlier in this essay I mentioned selflessness.  Let me further expand on this subject briefly and how it relates to spiritual development. What would you say that success is? The world tells you that success is achieving what you set out to do. It tells that it is winning, finding recognition is essential in any success. They may be by-products of success but they are not success. The conventional notion of success is concerned with the outcome of what you do. Some say it is a combination of hard work and luck, determination and talent, being in the right place at the right time. What the world doesn't tell you is what it doesn't know. That is that you cannot become successful. You can only be successful. Being successful is nothing more than a successful moment. The sense of quality in what you do. Care and attention which comes into awareness. The joy of being conscious, of being awake, of Being.

We create a universe with ourselves in the center, and from this point of reference, we relate to the rest of the world. With this understanding it becomes crucial to ask what the self is in relationship to spirituality. Self can be described as ego, as ignorance, which is the failure to see reality and the ultimate nature of reality. But once we gain insight into ultimate reality we ask what is it's nature? Since the physical and mental faculties that constitute our existence are transient, they change, age and then one day cease they cannot be true self. The answer may be that the existence of the individual is accepted only as a dependent entity and not as n independent absolute reality. We are a convergence in the world and the universe and are the interaction of all constituents in mutual interdependence. Each person's life and each life form represent a world a unique way in which the universe experiences itself.

In place of spirit I use consciousness or Being. Consciousness is already conscious. It is timeless and therefore does not evolve. It was never born and does not die. When it is manifested it appears to be subject to time and undergoes some sort of evolutionary process. No human mind is remotely capable of comprehending or fully understanding the reason for this process. But we can become aware of it in ourselves and catch a glimpse of it and become a conscious participant in it. It is the intelligence, the spiritual, and the organizer behind the arising of form. Spiritual development is nothing more than an awakened consciousness. That realization is awakening because awakening is the realization of Presence.


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