In this book the author shows how psychological and spiritual - sufferings are interwoven, and how tradition with its answers can collaborate with psychology to alleviate them. He starts by questioning the Western notion of normality, saying it reduces human and spiritual potentials for growth to a kind of average neurosis. He speaks of depression or depression-like reactions as an opening door towards spirituality, if dealt with in the right way. He attempts to discriminate between pathology and mysticism in what is called by psychologists regression and dissociation, and can be in-some cases the awakening of the spiritual childhood or liberation of the mind from social conditionings. Dr. Vigne, who has been familiar with Christian monasteries as well, tries to understand why the spiritual transmission in Christianity has been more institutional, while in Hinduism it has been more from Guru to disciple. He further develops the comparison between no dualism in India and among certain Christian mystics.
This book is written for the reader who does not resign himself to live in closed compartments, but whose mind and heart is searching for the unity beyond diversity.
Dr. Jacques Vigne was born in Paris in 1956; he studied there upto the M.D. and psychiatrist degree. He has been trained as a Medical Doctor, Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist in Paris and in India in Indology.
For the past eleven years Dr. Vigne is living in India. He has himself experienced the master-disciple relationship. Dr. Vigne can be considered as a second generation representative of the meeting of French people with Hindu spirituality. After travelling widely throughout India, he has authored three books on spiritual psychology and devotes now his time to spiritual practices. He has also written two short stories in French, where he evokes the relationship between spiritual master and disciple in a literary way. His writings are a contribution to a better understanding of East and West, as well as between modern psychology and spirituality. From time to time, he conducts tours of lectures and workshops in Europe, but basically resides in India near Haridwar.
I am glad to see the Indian edition of Indian Wisdom. Christianity and Modern Psychology. It has been first published in Paris by Albin Michel in the series 'Spiritualities vivantes' (living Spiritualities) which started half a century ago to publish books on Eastern, and especially Indian spirituality. They began to translate the teachings of sages like Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, Ma Anandamayi, Shri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, etc., and afterwards they opened themselves to the writings of Western authors on comparative spirituality. They have now more than 250 titles. This book, along with my Indian Teaching Tradition published by the same BRPC, are the two first titles of this series to be translated into English.
There are three main approaches to an understanding of the mind: the Eastern one, based on the Indian tradition, the traditional Western one, founded on Christianity and the modern Western one which corresponds to psychology. A comparison of the three approaches will be found in this book: an ambitious programmed indeed, but necessary in our time of increasing exchange between the cultures. My Christian origin and training, my studies of psychiatry and my present interest for the Vedantic path have prepared me for this synthesis. Each of these three approaches to the mind has its own individuality and internal logic, but it does not prevent one to ponder about their relationships and to get inspired by good traits of another approach.
Just two years ago, this book was published in Poland, where quite a few people are reflecting on the link between traditional Christianity, Eastern spirituality and psychology. I hope my third book Meditation et psychologies, recently released in Paris, will find its way towards translations as well, thus facilitating a better understanding between India and the West, and, in both cultures, between tradition and modernity. As for me, I am glad, through these two books, to give back to 'Mother India' what she has abundantly offered me during these last twelve years I have been living on her soil.<>
"From silence springs the ego, from the ego, thought, and from thought springs speech. This is the reason why silence is so much more powerful than speech". This reflection of Ramana Maharishi seems to cut short the very purpose of this study. Why talk about an experience which is essentially a silent one, untouched by words?
The field of spiritual psychology relates to different and varied stages and levels of consciousness and of inner evolution. In fact, unlike clinical psychology which aims to lead the individual to a normal state (the normal being defined according to a statistical 'mean), spiritual psychology seeks to illuminate the path taken by an individual moving towards a state of perfection. I begin this book by dedicating the first chapter to a critique of the Western notion of normality.
Religious traditions speak of salvation or liberation. They are not concerned with a vague ideal lost in the distant future. Liberation lies at the very heart of these traditions guiding the spiritual aspirant through the storms of inner evolution. In each generation there are certain individuals, very few in number, who reach that state in which the flowering of the human consciousness is complete.
I realize that this notion is foreign to classical Western psychology; even someone sufficiently open-minded about undertaking the spiritual path, has to have, if not faith, at least trust in order to accept the possibility of this state of Liberation. After some time, this trust gets stimulated by the experience of inner happiness that spiritual practice brings; then when the spiritual seeker meets his guru, it is no longer a 'question of faith or belief, but just of experience.
The guru is the keystone of the edifice of spiritual psychology, which is why I preferred to begin writing with a work on "Guru and Psychotherapist" rather than on spiritual psychology. On studying the latter one is constantly confronted with paradoxes: meditation is necessary, but then, so is action, one must have an intense desire for progress while being completely receptive, one must internalize one's consciousness while being united with others etc. Like the beam of a balance in perfect equilibrium, the guru shows the middle path without resorting to lengthy diatribes.
Spiritual psychology can provide the general guidelines for avoiding certain problems which one might encounter in the process of evolution, but it might convey too much about these problems to one person, and too little to another. If it analyses minutely all the possible problems that can arise in the course of a long-term practice of introspection, there is a grave risk of a negative effect being produced. This seems to me to be one of the main reasons why sages are relatively silent about the difficulties that are likely to be encountered along the way. It is enough to discuss them as they arise, or better still, just before they arise. In this way the mind of the disciple is not burdened with problems which he might never actually encounter.
Of course, a minimum base of theory is necessary being conscious of the world view which underlies one's spiritual path, having a good idea of the goal towards which one is moving, etc., but a detailed analytical theory, of the kind that is found in Western psychology, will only be a poor substitute for a guru. I see three reasons for this, to put it briefly: firstly, such theories overburden the mind which has a long way to go, secondly, they create negative suggestions to add to those already produced by the "automatic mind" (or 'manas' as it is called in Sanskrit) of the spiritual seeker. Thirdly these theories, being necessarily analytical, draw the mind towards fragmentation rather than towards unity. It is the inclination towards unity, however, which is the driving force of the spiritual path, and the experience of this unity its ultimate goal.
What I say about depression, delirium and regression is not addressed to patients in the acute stages; they are not in a state in which they can be helped by the written word. This text, however, can benefit them either after their crisis, to help them understand what had happened to them, or before, so that they can try to prevent or attenuate the disturbance they feel within themselves. The idea in this book will be of help to the people around the patients, or to the people who experience psycho-spiritual difficulties, as well as to the therapists of such patients.
It seems to go without saying, that among the schools of psychology with which I sympathize most, are humanist psychology and transpersonal psychology, both in Europe and America. However, after having written a large part of this work, I realized that I had not referred particularly to Stanislav Grof.. author of "Transpersonal Psychology"; I had preferred to just talk of "spiritual psychology" in my texts. Besides, living in India for five years. and following the traditional path myself, I had no apprehensions about using the word "spiritual".
The Third Point of View
The studies on spiritual psychology which appear in France generally seem to' vacillate between Christianity and psychology, often between the fairly rigid forms of them both, like Catholicism and Freudian psycho-analysis, for example. They try to work on this insoluble problem by attempting to bring together two equally rigid systems which ultimately repulse each other .like water and oil. Exhausting a great deal of intellectual energy, they succeed in finding some bridges between the two systems, bridges, which remain fragile, and, to my mind, unconvincing. Without disregarding the contributions of these two points of view, I try to introduce a third one: the Oriental point of view found in Hindu and Buddhist practices. This way of looking at things, backed by traditions that are two to three thousand years old, helps to clear Western minds of all the sterile and paralyzing notions that divide them into two factions-the psychological and the religious.
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