Spiritual Psychology: Structure of Self for Nondual Healing
The above slides give a descriptive map of the structure of our spiritual psychology (Click on slide to see the complete image).
The images should be viewed as representative of living form. The representation is given within the language of time and space, yet is of existential manifestation. The outer layers of the structure are highly unstable, changing, fluctuating according to the direction of consciousness and the environment, whereas the inner layers are less affected by time or distance. Above all, nondual healing addresses phenomena as it arises in the here and now, including the transient phenomena of identification and personal identity, investing in the true stability of source – the natural position of being “Not I, Not other than I”, formless and unentangled through all phenomena.
While conventional psychology works to the depth on changing behaviors through addressing underlying trends to ego structure of self image through bringing awareness to the patterns of personality, it ends with the black ring which is called here the “dark night”. In this, there is a materialist approach based on the visible rather than the broader dimensions of inner experience. The materialist approach to psychology develops out of the belief that consciousness is generated in the brain and is a local phenomena to an individual body.
Spiritual psychology and nondual healing turn this approach on its head, working from the somatic through to the boundless dimensions of infinity and eternity. It recognizes the vast dimension of emptiness (conventionally labelled the black box; unconscious; or subconscious), for its restorative power (as deep sleep is for the rudimentary physical). It also describes the ‘bardo’ phenomena found in the emptiness, the shadow sides, through which unconscious fears get projected out onto the world and onto others.
Nondual therapy also adds the area of qualia – the individual recipe of universal qualities that each physical bring brings as potential into the world. Yet also this, in nondual healing, is not an endpoint, but is like a diamond structuring the pure, formless, source prior to being.
It’s important to note that each layer of self is interdependently rooted in the rest. That is, when a structure of ego takes a hit, it resonates through the layers of personality and into the dark night, and vice versa. When a pattern of personality is liberated, it of course, has an immediate effect on the release of the burden of ego structures.
Here, we will briefly describe a little of each area.
Ego structures can be both positive and negative, as they connect to the image we have of ourself. Each self image has a continuum of fear at its core, as the image is necessary to ‘check in’ on the threat of rejection.
Ego structures are driven through the processes of identification which uses the dualistic system of grasping and aversion to select what it wants to ‘be’, and equally how it needs to be ‘seen’ from the outside.
Ego forms out of a belief in separation and the inheritance of a sense of condemnation, a sense of lack and a sense of not being good enough as-is. They form as a cover-up and shield to the imperfect personality, and have the dual agenda of recreating the best possible self image, while avoiding worst-case scenarios. As such, they are intricately bound up with the psychology of survival and the functioning of the autonomic nervous system.
While an improved “self image” can give room for expansion and healing, the agent of enhancing the image is likely to be pursued addictively so as to avoid the threat of contraction and to avoid the shadow of the image.
Unlike ego structures, personality is inherited, together with the DNA. While it might evolve or contract further through the impact with the environment, it serves as a template in a similar manner to the color of our eyes or the length of our toes.
Epigenetics has recently shown that this heredity includes also trauma from previous generations, as well as the resilience gained when a cycle of trauma is brought to peace. As the self matures through life processes, the personality can become a perfect vehicle through which to express the essential qualities that flow from a deeper layer.
The lion’s share of the personality (and the ego structure that grows out of it) is formed by trauma, which is encoded deeply into the cells of the body and the fundamental neurobiology. Another way to describe this would be that it is genetically determined by the basic instinct to survive, and the passing on of the survival lessons learned to progeny.
Healing involves releasing belief structures around the permanent nature of form, and leveraging of neuroplasticity by mindfully engaging the nondual resources such as meditation or mindfulness that lift the ceiling from the brain’s dualistic software of either-or choices (mind of discrimination).
The Dark Night
The rift in form sometimes referred to as the Dark Night of the Soul, or the Valley of the Shadow of Death, is actually a region of pure emptiness, alive with all omnipresent resources of the source of life. However, when we throw stuff, memories, situations or emotions “away”, this is the “away” we are throwing them into.
Jung has described this space as the unconscious (prior to the experience of Opus Mundi or One World), where the shadows of the psyche lurk, attempting to rejoin the whole through their reintegration into conscious awareness. It is the dimension of trauma (separated parts of ourselves) that demands integration. It is the rift in which we can meet our own worst nightmares – and transform them to freedom.
Because of the threats anticipated in the ‘Dark Night”, rings of existential states shield us off from this realm. These core states are also inherited and tend to be carried collectively in the atmospheres of a particular home or nation. These states include states of boredom – that drive us outward to seek egoic distraction in the ‘outer’ world; states of “nothing” – not an empty nothing, but a thick, resistant, nothing of energetic denial; states of depression (which can become chronic, as pressure to integrate the whole increases) and states of negativity (life is BAD). Many beliefs giving form to the personality are crafted by these states that shield us off from the deeper falling into the expected and dreaded horrors of the unknown (unconscious) regions of the dark night. When the states fail, or are threatened, anxiety or panic can come forward.
Navigation through the dark night is supported tremendously by attitudes that represent beacons of light: including gratitude, humility, service and compassion. These spiritual ethics, adopted in sincerity, literally light the way between the inner core of bliss and the layer of personality in periods of existential despair and angst.
From this point inward, we are out of the limitations of physical time and space. The Being is shining like a sun through all the layers of form, and is often experienced or sensed when we liberate consciousness from identity, or when there is a fracture in conventional patterns, such as the death of a loved one. Inherently death-less, this layer is an expression of our deeper purpose, happiness and fulfilment, which is connected with the manifestation of essential qualities out into the world through the layers of self, as well as the reception of the qualities of others.
The layer of essential being is fundamental to the precepts of nondual healing as it is home to the nondual positions that present the healing elixir to many of the conflicts on which personality and ego structures are based. For example, in the spiral between shame and disgust, the antidote offered to both from essential being is inherent purity. In the conflict between war and surrender, the nondual elixir is the indestructible energy of peace.
Prior to being and at source of consciousness, the source is the perennial continuum of freedom from and within all structures that express through time and space. It is imperceivable in the same way that an eye cannot see itself. Powerful beyond all belief, it underlies even the unified field of potent of emptiness, like a black hole birthing galaxies. It can be known by its qualities, and by the quickening and liberating effects of falling back into the inner most source of the life that we are.
It sounds abstract, yet (as is constantly reminded in ZEN traditions), it is under the nose, in every particle of normal experience. Nothing is left out of source, yet nothing is caught there either. The more an ability is developed to allow the undoing of structures of self, through the cessation of grasping and aversion, the more peace and reflexive care naturally moves through all layers with a pure, healing intelligence.
Time will not solve this problem. But once you clearly for yourself see – absolutely, irrevocably – that time is not a factor, then already you begin to see the cracks in the wall.