Explorring the Hroizon of concisousness
Peter L. Nelson
and Kaisa Puhakka
State University of New York Press
Service as a Way of Knowing
ARTHUR J. DEIKMAN
Service is usually seen as a moral issue,a matter of doing, of being
"spiritual" in an instrumental way. I suggest, however,
that service is bset understood as a matter of epistemology; it
is itself a way of knowing and is one that goes beyond conventional
empirical epistemologies. Service is a way of knowing in our connection--at
a deeper level-- with a reality much larger than our object selves.
What we call "the spiritual" pertains to the connected
aspects of reality; service enables us to experience that kind of
connectedness. The function of this connectedness or knowing is
seldom appreciated; nevertheless, service is one of the most direct
routes to the spiritual--a route often obstructed and confused by
moral preaching, religious mythology, and everyday assumptions about
the motivations and possibilities of human beings. To understand
how this is so we need to consider instumental and receptive functional
modes of consciousness and also the way in which our intentionality
determines the forms our consciousness takes. In this chapter, I
discuss these two basic modes of consciousness, the role of intentionality,
the survival self, the spiritual self, and the special function
of service in allowing a shift from the exclusive experience of
a separate self to a more balanced and connected self.
Most of our lives are spent with a form of consciousness that enables
us to act on the environment so that we will survive as biological
organisms. This form or mode of consciousness develops to obtain
food and defend against atteack. In order to do so successfully,
we need to learn to deal with the world in its object aspects, evoking
a specific type of consciousness I call the instrumental mode.
The instrumental mode is the result of a developmental process.
As the work of Gesell (1940), Erikson (1951), Piaget (1952) and
Spitz (1965) demonstrated, the infant objectifies his or her world
and uses the body as a template for learning. In one of Piaget's
examples, a child is unable to solve the problem of opening a box
with a lid, until he suddenly opens his own mouth, and then, immediately
afterward, opens the box. In such ways the body becomes the means
to organize and understand the world. Similarly, our early experiences
with objects establish the structure of our thoughts. The most abstract
and fundamental concepts ultimately are derived from the equation:
object = body = self. The space, time, and causality with which
we are familiar are the space, time, and causality that pertain
to objects. That there are logics of reality beyond the instrumental
or objective modes is indicated by the discoveries of modern physics,
particularty the particle/wave duality of light, the evidence for
nonlocality, and other paradoxes that have been proved true but
that we cannot understand. The late physicist, Richard Feynman,
I think it is safe that no one understands quantum mechanics.
Do not keep saying to yourself, if
you can possibly avoid it, "But how can it be like that?"
because you will "go down the drain"
into a blind alley fromn which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows
how it can be like that.
(cited in Pagels, 1982, p.113)
The limitations of instrumental, object-based consciousness can
be experienced without the benefit of a degree in physics. Just
try to imagine the universe coming to an end, spatially. I think
you will find you cannot do so. Every object has a border and there
is always space beyond any border you can visualize. Now try to
imagine the universe not coming to an end. You can't do that either.
Objects are never infinite. We cannot encompass the universe because
it is not an object, and our thought processes, our very perceptual
systems, have evolved to deal effectively with objects. Thus, we
automatically perceive boundaries, discriminate between ourselves
and others, and are wedded ot linear time.
Other aspects of experience are affected also. Shapiro demonstrated
that as children age, their responses to the Rorschach test change:
The youngest groups responded primarily to the color and texture
of the pictures, but those in the older groups paid progressively
more attention to the shape and meaning of the figures (Shapiro,1960).
Above all, we perceive the self as an object, separate, competing
with others, dependent on others. That self--the survival self--is
the one with which we are most familiar. Depending on what literature
you are reading, it is called the ego, the Commanding Self, the
drunken monkey, Small Mind, and so on. It is the organization of
all the psychological structures that employ instrumental consciousness
for its own benefit. This is the self that is busy acquiring, defending,
controlling. All these functions are necessary, but they have their
price: They set the agenda for the form of consciousness with which
we experience the world and limit the information open to us.
We spend most of our lives in instrumental consciousness, serving
the survival self. A summary of that mode's characteristic follows:
Example: Driving in heavy traffic
Intent: To act on the environment
Object-like, localized, separate from others
Emphasis on objects, distinctions, and linear causality
Sharp perceptual boundaries
Logical thought, reasoning
Formal dominates sensual
This is the mode of consciousness we typically employ when driving
a car in heavy traffic, or planning a business strategy, or maneuvering
strategically at a social event. It's the one you are probably involved
in as you read this chapter, checking for errors in logic, endeavoring
to grasp my meaning, perhaps (if you are an author) waiting to see
if I will reference something you've written. It's good mode for
Useful and necessary as this self may be, when it dominates consciousness
it creates problems. It underlies the exploitation of others, it
supports violence and war, all of which depend on separateness,
on disconnection. Disregard for the natural environment is another
consequence. From the point of view of instrumental consciousness,
"When you see one redwood, you've seen them all." Furthermore,
because it forms a barrier to experiencing the connectedness of
reality, instrumental dominance leads to meaninglessness, "
the mid-life crisis," alienation, fear of aging and death.
Thus, as infants and children we acquire concepts that later, as
adults, we assume constitute the structure of reality. In the absence
of alternative experience, these concepts are utterly convincing.
But they are limited. The instrumental mode can raise the Big Questions:
"Who am I? What am I? Why am I?", but it cannot hear the
answers. A different mode of consciousness is needed, one responsive
to reality in its connected aspects.
Suppose you've driven your car to the airport, have flown to another
city and checked in to your hotel. You want to relax, to unwind,
to be comforted. So, you fill the bathtub with steaming hot water,
ease your body into it, and relax your muscles. . . Ahhhhh! How
good that feels! Chances are you were able to shift out of the instrumental
mode and into the receptive, that mode whose function is to receive
the environment. In that mode, awareness of separateness diminishes,
there is a sense of merging with heat, the water, the surrounding
envrironment. Boundaries relax; past and future drop away; the sensual
takes over from verbal meanings and formal properties. Thinking
becomes tangential, scattered, and slows down; boundaries blur.
As boundaries soften, the sense of self becomes less distinct and
less dominant, the object self subsides, relinquishing control.
NOW, merging, and allowing are the dominant aspects of receptive
experience. A summary of receptive mode characteristics follow:
Example: Soaking in a hot tub
Intent: To recieve the environment
Undifferentiated, nonlocalized, not distinct from environment
Blurring or merging of boundaries
Emphasis on process, merging, and simultaneity
Alogical thought, intuition, fantasy
Sensual dominates formal
The critical dynamic that determines the form of consciousness
is intention. The intention to act on the environment neccessarily
features control. In contrast, to take in the environment, to be
nourished, requires allowing and a kind of merging. Just as the
instrumental mode is associated with the understanding of objects,
separation, and borders, the receptive mode gains access to knowledge
of a different sort. In order to appreciate this, try an experiment.
( A human partner is best, but a flower or a tree will do.) Look
into your partner's face with the specific intent of making a model
of it, a sculpture. Analyze the planes of the head, the spacing
of the eyes, the balance of the shpaes. Spend a few moments doing
that. Then shift your intention to one of receiving, allowing. Relax
your gaze, surrender to the experience, allow your partner's face
to be whatever it may be. Stay open and receptive to what comes
to you. The shift in intention is from controlling to allowing.
Most people notice a distinct difference in their perception of
the other when they shift their intention in this manner. The instrumental
experience is easier to describe, it lends itself to measurement,
comparisons, analysis. The receptive experience is more difficult
to talk about. Receptive perception evokes words like "mysterious,"
"deeper," "richer," "soul." Whether
face or flower, the Other emerges as a presence, filling consciousness,
saying, "Here I am!" Each mode reveals different aspects
of your partner's reality.
There is an additional dynamic shaping consciousness that is as
important as intention: the degree of activation of the survial
self. To get a taste of this, try the same experiment again. First
look at you partner (Or flower or tree) while maintaining a strong
sense of your self. Then allow that sense of self to diminish, subside,
and disappear. Notice the change in your experience of your partner.
Again, I think you will find that as the sense of self diminishes
and drops out, the experience becomes deeper, richer--your partner
acquires the dimension of presence.
I had a vivid demonstration of this phenomenon while attending a
seven-day Zen retreat. Part of the day was spent chanting. We held
up stiff white sheets of paper covered with Japanese words printed
starkly black. As the retreat progressed the words seemed to become
more intense, more vivid. About the fourth day, I began to think
that the letters didn't need me to be there, the chanting would
continue and the words would go on marching across the page by themselves.
The thought grew that the world did not need me to be here. In an
internal dialog I urged myself, "Go on, disappear! Let yourself
vanish from the world without "me". In some psychological
sense that I cannot specify further, I gave up my existence in the
world and let it exist without me. At that precise instant in which
I allowed myself to disappear, the room and the others sitting there
were suddenly transformed, becoming transfigured, archetypal, super
real. Each student was a Buddha, awesome. At one point, a bell was
rung and the sound rolled toward me like shimmering silver. I don't
know how long the state lasted; I returned to my usual consciousness
as we walked from the meditation hall. But afterward, I tried to
understand what had happened, why my state changed so dramatically
when my self "vanished." I now believe it was because
the unusually profound deactivation of the survival self--its abdication
of dominance--permitted a deeper experience of reality in its fundamental,
The survival self of instrumental consciousness has distinct characteristics
related to that mode. The emphasis is on boundaries, differences,
form and distinctions. Consequently, the self is experienced as
a discrete object, more isolated than not. And we suffer the consequences.
After all, the goals of the survival self--acquisition, pleasure,
and permanence--are doomed. Acquisition is defeated by death; sensual
pleasure is defeated both by aging and by the invidious design of
our central nervous system that adapts to most sensory stimuli--except
that of pain.
This adaptation is an everyday experience. The initial ice cream
cone my be thrilling, but if you want a repeat of the experience
you will have to double the scoops and add sprinkles. The next serving
had better be a banana split. And so on, until boredom or indigestion
sets in. In contrast, a toothache never gets boring. Our response
to money also demonstrates the problem. Lewis Lapham (1988) did
an informal survey of his friends and acquaintances, asking them
if they made enough money. All said no. When asked how much would
be enough, they all named a figure double what they were currently
earning, whatever that might be.
What is required for a healthy life is flexibility of consciousness.
Most activities involve both modes to some degree and this ability
to make use of the appropriate balance is essential to a healthy
life. Flexibility is key. When flexibility is absent we see pathological
manifestations of the modes: obsessive-compulsive character disorder
in the case of a rigid adherence to instrumental consciousness and
hysterical charaacter disorder in the case of overcommitment to
the receptive, a fixation on impressionistic, diffuse consciousness
Both modes are needed. Problems arise when one mode excludes or
crowds out the other. In most or our spiritual experiences we are
still conscious of the world's object qualities, but our perceptions
take on additional qualities wuch that the experience is "deeper,"
"transcendent," "profound" by virtue of an increase
in connectedness to and in the world. We feel gratitude for that
widening, that larger sense of ourselves as part of a beautiful
and awesome reality.
Especially in creative work, a balance of modes is critical. I think
Yeats (1951) conveys the flavor of this when he writes of Michelangelo,
"Like a spider upon the water, his mind moves upon silence"
(p.327). Most of us are limited by excessive instrumental dominance,
but we do not realize this since our culture is strongly materialistic
and our science is based totally on instrumental consciousness.
To the extent that instrumental consciousness rules experience,
life can easily seem meaningless. Meaning arises from connection
but instrumental consciouseness features separation. This effects
our experience of self. The self of instrumental consciousness is
The Survival Self
Aim of self-preservation
Self as object distinct from environment
Able to defend, acquire
Able to achieve material goals
Basis for traditional vices
Access to conceptual meaning only
Fear of death
Needed for individual survival
In contrast, experience of self when receptivity is high and the
survival self subdues can be quite different. This other-centered
consciousness produces a qualitative change in the experience of
self. I will call that other-centered self the spiritual self since
it exists in connection. Its characteristics and effects are now
The Spiritual Self
Aim of service, attunement
Self identified with larger life process, resonant with environment
Basis for traditional virtues
Tendency toward passivity
Ineffective in defending, acquiring
May be needed for survival of the human species
Our scientific, materialistc society continuously reinforces the
survival self, the object-like self of the instrumental mode. Once
formed, the survival self activates the instrumental mode in tis
own behalf. Because of this, if we wish to experience the connectedness
of reality it is neccessary not only to shift our intention in the
direction of allowing and taking in, we need also to lower the level
of activation of the survival self. The overall situation can be
expressed in an equation: C = f[I + S]. Consciousness is a function
of intention and self.
It is particularly hard to lower one's invisible survival self aims,
those that operate unconsciously and are reflected in our characteristic
attitudes and assumptions. To do this generally requires help. For
this we can turn initially to psychotherapy to decrease the intensity
of intrapsychic threats (Deikman,1982) and then to the spiritual
traditions to deal with survival self aims that are hidden from
our sight. The spiritual traditions assist in developing an ongoing
attitude, an outlook, that facilitates the emergence of the spiritual
The Spiritual Traditions
The bimodal model of consciousness provides a way of understanding
the spiritual traditions because the spiritual path is often described
as learning to "forget the self." The self to be forgotten
is the survival self that evokes a mode of consciousness featuring
separation. To shift to an experience of reality in its connected
aspects, receptivity must be combined with a decrease in control
by the survival self. This is a straight-forward, functional matter.
It has to do with an internal attitude, the guiding intent. I think
that is what Thomas Merton (1968) was referring to in his book,
Zen and the Birds of Appetite when he described meat-eating birds
(the survival self) lokking for carrion:
Zen enriches no one. There is no body to be found. The birds may
circle for a while in the place where it is thought to be. But they
elsewhere. When they are gone, the "nothing," the "no-body"
that was there,
suddenly appears. That is Zen. It was there all the time but the
missed it, because it was not their kind of prey. (p.ix)
Outer behavior may be misleading. For example, acquisitiveness
need not be directed at money alone. Imagine a very successful businessman
who decides he is no longer interested in amassing wealth, because
from what he has read the only true satisfaction comes from Enlightenment.
So he joins a spiritual group. His new intention is faxed down to
the computer center in his brain. There, an underling picks up the
fax and runs to the boss. "He says he no longer wants money.
Now he wants enlightenment. Shall we change the program?" "No"
says the boss, "it's the same program: Acquisition."
In his case, and most others, the survival self is still running
the show. After all, to use Abraham Maslow's wonderful phrase, "If
all you know how to use is a hammer, you tend to treat everything
you meet as if it were a nail." Being spiritual is no exception.
What is needed for the perception of connectedness is for the survival
self to become the servant, not the maser. That is what "forget
the self" means. The survival self is still needed to function
in the world, but it must not be the boss if a different experience
of reality is to be made possible. There is no cheating on this
one. Sitting cross-legged, inhaling incense, wearing a saffron robe,
and going vegetarian won't necessarily change the guiding intention.
So what can be done to find freedom from self-centered motivations.
How does the spiritual teacher help the student to "forget
the self?" If we turn to the mystical literature we find that
most traditions make use of meditation, teaching stories, and service.
Meditation can be viewed as enabling a person to identify with the
observing self, the "I," and to separate that core self
from the concerns and mental activity of the survival self (Deikman,
1982). This increases freedom from concepts and lessens the dominance
of intrumental consciousness, especially as meditation is based
on allowing rather than making something happen. Teaching stories
can be viewed in the same way; they enable the student to recognize
patterns of thought, and behavior that would otherwise remain hidden,
influencing the form of consciousness.
The functional approach to consciousness also can enable us to understand
the emphasis on renunciation that can be found in most spiritual
traditions. Renunciation is often misunderstood as giving up sensual
pleasure, wealth, and power. When I first began doing research in
the mystical experience I noted that the literature stressed both
meditation and renunciation. Meditation was a lot more appealing
than renunciation; I wasn't about to be an ascetic. So I began investigating
meditation. Much later, Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, a Zen master, clarified
the issue by explaining that renunciation was not giving up the
things of this world but accepting that they go away (Suzuki,1970).
Such acceptance means an open hand, whereas the hand of the survival
self is grasping, controlling.
We are now in a position to understand the vital funcion of service
in providing access to the spiritual. You have undoubtedly heard
the cynical argument that everything we do is selfish because even
doing a good deed gives us pleasure. One expression of that idea
view was provided by Forbes magazine in which the view of economists
concerning charity was summarized: "People gain satisfaction
from charitable giving. It makes them feel good, and they tend to
consume mofe of this feeling as their incomes rise" (Seligman,1998,p.94).
There is some truth in that. Furthermore, a fantasy of a heavenly
account book is often in operation, making good deeds a commercial
operation--pay now, collect in Heaven. Perhaps that is why the Sufi
saint, Rabia, prayted:
If I worship you from fear of Hell, cast me
If I worship you from desire for Paradise,
deny me Paradise
What she is countering in dramatic fashion is spiritual activity
for gain, or from fear. Prayer, helping others, following a discipline,
may all be performed on the basis of hidden vanity, greed, and fear,
with the result that the survival self is enhanced, not diminished.
Spiritual experience calls a marked decrease in self-concern. For
this, service is ideal, permitting a "forgetting" of the
self that markedly reduces survival self concerns.
However, the call to service usually arouses conflicted feelings,
for helping others may feel like being good on command, showing
that you are a good person because service is what good people do.
People who spend their lives doing service are catergoized as saints
and saints are the most good of the good. So service is widely believed
to be something you should do to show your spiritual side, your
concern for other human beings.
This idea of service gets mixed with basic teachings learned by
the child in the family setting: Do good and you will be rewarded;
do bad and you will be punished. These childhood beliefs persist
and suggest an omnipresent parent who is watching, keeping score
(Deikman,1990). Most of us do not admit to such notions, but I have
found that almost everyone, including myself, has a background fantasy
of some celestial entity that is watching, keeping track of what
we do, keeping accounts for a final settling up after we die. The
idea of service seen in that context can easily result in a sense
of obligation and nagging guilt, it can lead to resentment at the
burden and resistance to action. For those who do act on the basis
of reward and punishment--no matter how hidden the fantasy may be--there
is the danger of self-inflation and self-righteousness on the one
hand, disappointment and "burn-out" on the other. Perhaps
most important of all, such expectations and reactions interfere
with appropriate, creative action and render service useless for
spiritual development. Fortunately, there is a way of acting that
allows us to "forget the self." I call it serving-the-task.
This type of service is not for any personal wish of our own, but
to satisfy the needs of the task, to do what is called for. A carpenter
may finish the underside of a chair because it feels right, is called
for, even though the selling price will remain the same and the
customer may not notice or care. I am aware that in writing this
chapter, I have a mixture of personal motivations, concerns, and
hopes, but I can also feel a sense of what is needed to accomplish
the task. That guiding sense of what is needed is impersonal and
may be resisted by my survival self, but it is there. It is not
a compulsion but a recognition that tugs at me. When I surrender
to it I get in touch with another dimension that is hard to describe
and elusive to the grasp. This place, where I meet the task and
merge with it, feels more important, more meaningful than personal
desires. The surrender to the task can occur in any setting. Psychotherapists
may recognize this as the "good hour" where everything
flows and the therapist feels part of a subtle dance, one that carries
as much as leads. Self-interest and self-concern subside and disappear
as what-is-called-for takes over.
People who are truly serving the task experience something they
cannot name, something that can answer the Big Questions. They do
not ask, "What is the meaning of life?" because the question
no longer arises. The answer is implicit in the experience of connection
that service makes possible, the experience of a self-enlarged by
connection and freed from its object goals. This "enlightenment"
is not a guru's gift; it arises as a consequence of the forgetting
of the self that service makes possible. That is why it is said
that if a person is ready for enlightenment it cannot be withheld;
if they are not, it cannot be given.
You may wonder if an evil task can be served--such as following
the orders of an Adolph Hitler--and still further spiritual development.
The answer is No. Not only do motives of hatred and fear reinforce
identity with the survival self, the task of harming another human
being cannot be done in a state of psychological connection. Barriers
must be raised, the Other must be established as different from
oneself, inferior, bad--connection must be abolished. If you doubt
this, experiment once again with a partner. Be receptive to his
or her face, allow your experience of self to subside so that the
other's presence exteds to you. Now imagine you are going to stab
your partner. Visualize it happening and notice the change in your
experience as you carry it out. You will find that in order to do
so, even in your imagination, you have to "step back"
psychologically and separate yourself, breaking connection. Service
must necessarily be generous, beneficial in intent, in order to
open the gates of perception. The more the suvival self can subside,
can cease to dominate consciousness, the wider the gates can open.
Knowing by Being What is Known
Imagine that our awareness is a pond connected by a narrow outlet
to the ocean At the mouth of the outlet there is a standing wave--the
survival self--that blocks the ocean currents from entering the
pond. As the survival self subsides, more and more of the ocean
currents can gain access to the pond that then begins to resonate
with the ocean. The pond then "knows" the ocean by resonationg
with it, in part becoming it. Probably, it is this experience that
underlies the statements of mystics such as the tenth-century Sufi,
Hallaj, who declared, "I am God" and was executed for
apostasy. He did not mean "I, Hallaj, am the object God of
your imagination," but "I am at one with the Reality that
transcends understanding." The perception of the ocean's currents
may lead to the experience of serving the Truth or "serving
the Will of God," a phrase often misused by those still serving
the survival self.
Service is a way of knowing our connection. The experience of the
ocean's currents provides a sense of purpose and a guide to action
that can use the survival self to fulfill a larger task. This alignment
with the currents is referred to by mystics as "choiceless
choice." In this way, we best can balance the instrumental
and receptive modes so as to preserve connection and yet be effective
in the world.
The knowing that takes place is not easily communicated. You may
be acquainted with someone who is very active helping others. If
you praise such a person for what they are contributing they will
likely reply, "I've received more than I've given." If
you ask what it is they have received, they have difficulty saying.
What they are experiencing is a kind of knowledge different from
that to which they ordinarily have access. Rather than it being
something they perceive, like a movie, or concepts, like a book,
it is knowledge be being that which is known. Through service they
are able to connect with the larger field and, the varying degrees,
become it (see also "knowledge by Identity" in Forman,1999,pp.109-127).
Here is the experience of a person who established an organization
that cares for people suffering from AIDS. His life is focused on
service. He was responding to my question "Why do you feel
that you have received more thatn you have given?" He said
he could only answer by referring to those times when he felt truly
connected to the person he was serving:
In the caregiving work itself, in the service work, itself, when
truly connected with the other person, what happened was something
about healing the separation I felt in my own life and the separation
I believe we are all born into. The connection with that person
felt like a tremendous gift, a kind of union that I wanted more
in my life, not only in service encounters but in relationships
outside the normal connection of personalities, outside of social
norms, personal expectations. Something deeper was happening that
I craved considerably; only aware of it when the need started to
get filled, like a hungry person being weak but unaware of the source
of the hunger and then food shows up--"This is it!"
It all takes the form of my being the best person I could be, of
my deepest humanity being expressed this way. "This is why
here." Here is the answer to the question, "What am I
What is the purpose of my life?" Nothing else I do elicits
feeling of "Yeah, this it it!" more than service does--not
creative work, not any other action in the world, not the completion
of a project that I'm proud of. All that makes me feel good but
nothing meets as deep a need in as profound a way as service
work does. (C.Garfield, personal communication,1998)
There is nothing exotic here, nothing hidden, nothing arcane.
But the knowledge does have its own requirements. It is as if you
came to a steam and wanted to drink. If you persisted in trying
to grab the water--your usual approach--you would obtain nothing.
If you want to drink you would have to cup your hands. It has nothing
to do with piety; it has to do with the nature of water.
Advantages of the Functional Model
From a clinical point of view we can begin to understand the phenomena
of mid-life crisis, menainglessness, burn-out, and preoccupation
with death as reflecting a weakness of connection to something larger
than oneself. While these problems can reflect intrapersonal problems
with intimacy and self-worth, we also need to evaluate the extent
to which they may reflect self-absorption and isolation in that
person's daily life, the extent to which he or she lacks activities
that could connect and expand his or her identity. We may ask ourselves
to what extent and how often does this person shift to other-centered
This model featuring intention and slef offers a means of evaluation
spiritual groups and their leaders. Seekers can be tricked by the
assertion, "The Teacher is enlightened and perceives things
on a different plane. What he/she does has a spiritual significance
that is beyond y0ur comprehension. Therefore, you are not capable
of judging the Teacher's actions." Whether or not the Teacher
actually is fostering spiritual development can be assessed by listening
carefully to what he or she says, noting whether or not the survival
self is being stimulated or being subdued. If the Teacher emphasizes
the promise of bliss or enlightenment, greed is being stimulated;
if the seeker is defined as being special, vanity is encouraged;
an emphasis on the harm seekers will suffer if they leave the group
stimulates fear. Greed, vanity, and fear reinforce the operations
of the survival self and the teacher who employs them is impeding--not
helping--spiritual development. No matter what powers the Teacher
might manifest, he or she is not a spiritual teacher, is not above
criticism, and is not entitled to special prerogatives.
In addition to the considerations just described, it is important
that we achieve an integration of the scientific worldview with
our inuition of the spiritual. For myself, that has been a problem
ever since I entered medical school. The reductionistic, materalistic
ethos was totally incompatible with my own experience of the spiritual
dimension. So, in the close of my mind, I kept the spiritual domain
in a shoebox on the top shelf. I would take it down for periodic
inspection but couldn't help feeling that what it contained was
not really real, not real the way my cadaver's brain was real. And
yet, the shoebox contained the experiences most important to my
life. When I was quiet, open, and receptive and looked into my wife's
eyes the experience was mysterious and profound, different from
our ordinary contact. I perceived something that carried beyond
our location in time and space and conveyed the sense of a much
larger, more important reality. What my scientific and psychoanalytic
teachers offered as explanation for this I never found convincing.
According to them such perceptions should be regarded as a projection
of unconscious wishes, memories, and primitive feeling states. In
other words, it was something I imagined, something of internal
origin that I misidentified. True, people do imagine and project,
but these explanations seemed shallow, they did not fit the experience.
I could not integrate this materialistic, positivistic world of
science with transcendent world labeled "spiritual."
Looking back over my research I can see that it has been a persistent
effort to find a framework that could unite these domains in a nonmysterious
manner. With the concept of different ways of knowing depending
on intention and self, I think the integration can be accomplished
in a straightforward way that is consonant with discoveries in developmental
and motivational psychology, and with the world sketched for us
by quantum physics, and with the spiritual traditions. Finally,
the functional model of consciousness can help us understand service
without interference from the myths of childhood and from religious
With serving-the-task as our motivational guide, we can spot the
emergence of hidden self-interest and reestablish the task-oriented
attitude that we need. This monitoring protects us from the distorted
perspective introduced by self-centered consciousness, enabling
our service to be more creative and effective and expanding our
view of the world and of ourselves.
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