The Indian Teaching Tradition Part 3
The Spiritual Master and the Psychotherapist
Those who, up to now, have attentively followed this work, would have already noticed many differences between the master and the therapist, but also some common points. Can the psychotherapist in the West have the same function which the guru has in India? Yes, if one takes guru in the larger meaning of the term, namely, he who helps us to understand ourselves. No, if one means a Sadguru to be one who is firmly established in the state of liberation and who has the capability of leading the disciple there.
There are some analogies between the two relationships of help; but this does not mean that they are on a same level. The rings of a spiral have all the same shape, but this does not mean that all of them are at the same height. At the beginning, there are many similarities between the process of psychotherapy and that of meditation. It is the stage of purification where one is cleansing oneself of detected earily diseovred tensions and perturbations easily detectable. Nevertheless, those who have sustained a rather intensive practice of meditation will enter into a domain where only a spiritual Master could actually lead them. The therapists would give some advice, conditioned by their mental schemes, able to alleviate perhaps for a short time the tension in the person who meditates; but they have an incomplete idea of the long-term effect that their advice is capable of having. Most of them do not have the experience of a regular practice of meditation, be it some hours per day or full time over a long period.
When I was in France I was personally interested in different kinds of psychotherapies, and at the same time I practised meditation. I looked in various directions for whatever could help me to understand my own mind. During the ten years I spent in India, I have followed a Vedantic sadhana (spiritual path) utilizing the traditional teachings and with the help of those who have wolked through this very path. Strictly speaking, I no longer employ any of the data of Western psychology to work on my own mind, even if, fortunately, there are some general laws of inner functioning which are expressed in the traditional Hindu psychology and which are also formulated in the Western systems.
During this period I have been outside the psychotherapeutic milieu, giving myself time to concentrate on research without having to assume the responsibility of patients, and this fact has allowed me to gain a proper distance regarding the therapies I had used before. I think that this and this (fact) has served me well; in this way I have become aware of several factors which I could not perceive when I was in "the midst of action".
If therapy keeps to its first goal, that is, to give a relatively short term help to clients who want to regulate some problems, or to give prolonged support to patients who are too disturbed to be left alone, the difference with the role of the spiritual Master is clear; the latter assures a long term help to persons who are not a priori pathological. On the other hand, if the psychotherapy goes beyond its principles and methods within the domain of "personal development" and claims to be a way of continuous evolution, prescribing some practices that one is expected to carry on for life, there would be an overlapping of the respective domains, and it would be interesting to discuss in a precise way what the actual competence of the therapist is with respect to that of the Master.
By the age of sixty, for instance, Freud had practically stopped seeing patients. All day long he received healthy persons who wanted to explore their own mind through the method of psychoanalysis. From that period onwards, he began to write more and more general works about civilization, its origins and its future, about religion, and in fact about a psychoanalytical world-view. He was no longer a therapist; he had become a Master, a guru presiding over his community of disciples. Jung, like many others, did not accept this logic of power, typical of a Church in formation, and so left him. More recently, the founders of therapy in the U.S.A. often seem to follow the same path of "guruisation". They start by discovering some prescriptions valid for short therapies, then, driven by their success and by the naive admiration of their clients or students, they begin to go beyond their theories and to lead them into the social, historical or religious domains. In these domains especially, they often seem to have only a superficial education. If one may relieve a headache by an aspirin, this does not mean that one may relieve all sicknesses by taking ten or a hundred aspirins all at once. After a discovery, —for instance the method of free association in psychoanalysis—, the mind is carried away and thinks that all problems will be solved by thismethod. Erich Fromm may write with an enthusiastic impulse: "The analyst, during years of work in common with the patient, becomes the instructor, the model. He becomes even, perhaps, a master.... The didactic analysis is not the end, but the beginning of an unceasing process of other analysis, namely an ever growing awareness."1 Nevertheless, some "travel accidents" may always occur on the road of "ever-growing awareness"... It is to ward off such accidents that spiritual paths have been established. If they did not exist, they should be invented.
Spiritual paths lay more stress than the psychotherapies do on the need for altruism, whether called charity or compassion. They stress as well the rules of ethical behaviour (yama-niyama in Sanskrit); These rules permit that the energy and the consciousness awakened by regular meditation would not be gradually wasted by an unbalanced behaviour. The therapists are reluctant to speak about this, because they are afraid that, if they become too paternalist or "repressive", their clients would run away. The long term results of therapy may be felt negatively. The therapist tries to repair the mind. The guru, from the beginning, tries to reach beyond the mind, according to the measure of the disciple’s potentialities. One of the positive manifestations of this status beyond mind is ananda, joy without object. Often it is felt among those who follow the call of a real spiritual voice. It is less felt among the therapists; I know this because I have belonged to such a milieu.
True, one may come across some "psy" who can be persuasive or seductive; they speak at length of gratification, of the pleasure principle or of libidinal economy, but their general disposition is rather on the boring and depressing side, which they cover under the label "lucidity." Freud himself wrote in 1929 to Lous Andreas-Salomé: "At the depth of myself I am totally convinced that my beloved fellow men, apart some exceptions, are nothing but rubbish."2 Which proper psychological help may one give to those who, from one’s own depth, one considers as "rubbish"? It will remain limited; whatever his prestige, or is the number of library shelves of books about him and the quantity of disciples collected around him, at the actual time of therapy the therapist will send the message "rubbish" to the patient and this will not help.
Objectivity does not belong to this world. Beside language, there are wany woys thrangh which the therapist leads the patient to share his views about the mind and its functioning. When the patient reaches it, it is said that he is better. Once some volunteers were asked to present themselves to a therapist in order to collaborate in an experiment. They had to say all the words that came into their head. In a first group the therapist, (without saying anything about the aim of the experiment of course), took a slightly encouraging attitude every time that the word was in plural, and a sl;ightly contrite attitude when the word was singular. With respect to the witness control group, the frequency of plural words was significantly increased among those who received this subliminal influence. There are many ways to influence the mind of people. In order to distinguish a nefarious influence (manipulation of mind) from a positive one, the following criterion is never emphasized enough: does the effect of influence last a long time after the latter has stopped being reinforced? If the answer is yes, one may say that the influence has revealed some deep aspirations that the subject already had in himself, and in this sense it has been positive.
In a book which deserves reading, The Manipulated Mind,3 Denise Winn describes in this way the criteria of manipulation of mind, for instance as occurring in the "hard sects"; she calls them "the five Ds":
1. Dependence: the subject thinks that, once entered in the sect, he cannot live outside it.
2. Destabilization: the subject is deadly afraid of the idea of loosing the approval of the group. From the latter depends his psychological stability.
3. Debilitation: body and spirit are weakened, enfeebled by a combination of lack of sleep, insufficient food and of overcharged working time without time for thinking.
4. Disinformation: to make a potential recruit believe false positive features on the sect; for instance, that everyone there shares the same hobby or concerns as the newcomer.
5. Desensitization: the normal moral sentiments become first of all subservient to the interest of the sect; for instance, one may have the right of stealing and lying, in as far as it serves to promote the movement.
Generally, such elements are accompanied by high financial exigencies from the leaders, and by intrusions into the affective life of the subjects.
The comparison between spiritual master and therapist will be better evaluated if in psychology two tendencies are distinguished:
— Psychology as science (experimental, social psychology);
— Psychology as art (psychotherapy).
The art of helping is old, but the form of its application varies from one period to another. In the same way that it cannot be said that a statue of modern art, because is more recent, is more beautiful than a Greek statue, so it cannot be said that the help given today in developing a normal mind is better than that given in Ancient Times or in the Middle Ages, or given at present in other cultures. All that we can safely assume, is that the present help is adjusted to our epoch, and that some progress has been made concerning the knowledge of pathological psyche. It is difficult to speak about global progress in the counselling relationship; on the other hand, in every generation, there are beings who succeed in helping others, while others do not. A counselling relationship, in its deep sense, meddles with the spiritual. Can we say that today we are more spiritual than, for instance, the generations of Israel who composed the Psalms? It is a tricky question. Even in the intellectual domain, the knowledge of people has its ebb: Roger-Pol Droit4 has rightly emphasized that in the nineteenth century the cultural elite, though not made up of specialists, did know much more about Indian philosophy than the elite of today. Less translations were available, but people took their time to read them. In France at least, there has been a regression of the general level of knowledge about India from this point of view. Nevertheless, the knowledge of Hindu spirituality has been developed in a larger public than that of university students.
Guru and Psychotherapist at Work: Similarities and Differences
There are all kinds of levels of competence, both among gurus and psychotherapists. What I compare are a priori the best among them: the ideal psychotherapist, as an honest and lucid man, with the ideal Guru, the Sadguru, who is near liberation and who can help the disciple on the long path leading to it.
Both in psychoanalysis and in the new therapies, the counsellors, and especially the founders of schools, have a tendency of being considered as gurus. It is worthwhile to quote an excerpt from the concluding page of a book written by a psychoanalyst about the counselling relationship: "The psychoanalyst-to-be then becomes an authentic disciple of the founders of depth psychology, he may undertake a confrontation with the deepest couches of soul—a task that Freud and Jung inaugurated with heroism. He may live his true destiny."5
Behind a rationalistic presentation, psychoanalysis corresponds to a transmission of an initiatory kind, the initiation test being the analysis itself. If one goes back up the ladder of "gurus" one reaches back to Jung or Freud. In India, the origin of gurus’ lineages is always God; in an analogous way, in the symbolic functioning of analytic movements, the founders are not only considered as heroes, but in some places even as gods: they have created ex nihilo the "first entrance" to the depths of soul. One pursues the exegesis of their writings with as much fervour as that given to the revealed texts...
Nevertheless, it may be interesting to notice that Freud had a feeling that in Romain Rolland, the author of books on Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and India, there was something indefinable attracting him, certainly because he guessed that he could not enter into it with the rigidity of his analytic method: "Mysticism is closed to me as much as music. I do not see myself reading what you have read on this subject matter. And yet it is easier to you than to us to read in human soul." Again he wrote to Romain Rolland in 1931: "Near the unavoidable end of my life, of which I was reminded by a recent operation, and knowing that possibly I would not see you any more, I may now confess to you that rarely have I so forcefully resented this mysterious attraction of a human being for another, as in what concerns you. Perhaps it is linked in some ways to the conscience that we have of our differences."6
As for Jung, he was fascinated by the nature of "therapeutic charisma". He starts one of the books of his maturity, The Relation between the Ego and the Unconscious, with a chapter in which he develops the archetype of the therapist half-god and of the force of healing that he contains: we are near the theme of the guru as a godman. And he ends the book with a chapter about the "mana personality" of the healer, or of the leader full of sacred power. Though perceiving the import of the Guru archetype, he did not want to listen to anyone speaking about flesh and blood Masters: his disappointment with Freud had been too burning. When he was already 60 years old he travelled to India to receive some doctorates honoris causa by Indian Universities. There he even avoided meeting a guru as famous as Ramana Maharshi, recommended to him by his friend Heinrich Zimmer. He was concentrated on Western tradition and in that time he was writing his book on alchemy; in a word, in visiting India, he was not willing to learn something really new.7
Jung thought that one could be satisfied by an inner guru, and for some time he had his own: he called him Philemon, talked to him. and But then this image, in its turn, got transformed. In Indian tradition, however, the rule is that the inner guru is awakened by the external guru. Jung possibly thought that the search for unity with an external guru was contrary to the main idea of his work, individuation; but in order to really feel the unity with a guru, one has to have mastered one’s own mind, therefore to possess all one’s capacities, which weous that ore has to be perfectly individualized. Actually there is no contradiction. Those who feel that my critique of the sectarian aspect of psychoanalysis is exaggerated could refer to the four books in French and in English that are quoted in the footnotes.8 They will find there many facts supporting my argument, which I do not have either the space or the interest to pursue here. After psychoanalysis, there are a lot of other groups which have acquired a semi-sectarian structure, though addressing themselves to psychotherapy and to the objective study of mind. This phenomenon is especially manifest in the United States. The Scientology of Ron Hubbard is a good example of this type of movement; at the beginning, there are some valid psychotherapeutic intuitions, but the organization as such has surely deviated towards sectarianism.
The therapist more than the guru goes inside the mental construction of the one who asks for help. The guru shows the example, gives energy and explains the main lines of spiritual development to his disciple. Sometimes, he suggests that he rectifies his behaviour. He does not try to interpret the mental productions of his disciple, because he knows that the latter is in a better position than himself to do that; and even if the beginner wastes some time in feeling his way, the essential thing is that he learns to trust his capacity to face his own mind alone. Such a confidence cannot come in a day. Either by concentrating on his breath, on a divine form, on a mantra or on the Self, the disciple is constantly coming back to the sense of unity. Leaning on such a feeling, he may look to his own mind in a really therapeutic manner; the latter reveals itself little by little in his meditation. I would rather tend to say: the practitioner, willy-nilly, considers this sentiment of unity as a kind of panacea. Actually, if he perseveres with intensity in this sense, the anticipated panacea would start to function as such for the better!
We are not, here, in the domain of physical medicine, but in the shifting realm of mind; a sustained desire has great chances of realizing itself. The real question is of knowing whether one is able to have such a sustained desire.
If the therapist sees the problems, the spiritual Master sees through them. If the therapist is a supporting ally, the Master is the support itself. If it happens that a therapist gives some directions, the Master does more than this: he is himself the direction. If the therapist mends and repairs in a short time the mind of his patient, the Master would define himself more as an artist aiming at a masterpiece. If the therapist insists on the sad reality and the necessity of "mourning", the guru straightaway places the focus on liberation.
The psychotherapist and, in an even stronger degree, the guru, holds the place of the mother. At the beginning of the relationship this aspect may not even be clearly perceivable; guru and therapist would take rather the role of the "imaginary companion" of the great childhood, that kind of alter ego that the child builds up for himself and with whom he may speak for hours when he plays alone. When the relationship deepens, the patient feels that he is the object of a maternal love on the side of the therapist, of a "love of solicitude" if we want to utilize the expression of Ferenczi.9
With the help of the guru the disciple may come back to a stage of development prior to language. The mantra that he repeats evokes the "transitional sound" alluded to by Winnicott regarding his observations about the transitional object.10 A common mantra is Ma: it constantly leads back towards the root of language, to the first articulated sound which comes out from the infant’s mouth. Later on, seeing the guru and the divine Mother in everything, it allows one to descend more deeply to the phase before the anguish of the eighth month, when the baby was not afraid of the stranger; because he saw its mother in everybody, it made no difference. When the spiritual candidate goes a further degree towards the Absolute, the last form that he perceives is the smile of his Master, which is reflected in his own smile of liberation. This last communication before reaching the supreme stage reminds me of the first communication of the infant with its mother at the age of four months; the atemporal smile of the Buddha is then embodied in this infant’s first smile.
Beyond this stage, there is a massive identification, the non-differentiation. We must again repeat that this identification with the guru is not an external imitation, but the awareness of an essential communion thanks to the long work of inner preparation. It does not nullify what was previously achieved, especially the capacity of playing one’s play with the external world; it simply makes this play relative. I have already said that in India I met a woman who did psychoanalysis for twenty years. She was a disciple, in Zurich, of Marie-Louise von Franz and of a grand-child of Jung. She had just met Ma Amritanandamayi. She told me: "For twenty years I have spoken in therapy about the Mother, but there I had her before me." This reintegration on the whole, when it is not only an expression void of sense but a long-term experience, operates a fundamental healing. The German word heilen and the English heal have the same root as the Greek holos, meaning "whole": the guru who can lead to this experience of the Whole grants the first and last healing.
Counselling and Teaching Relationship from Beginning to End
The therapist’s clients are different from those of the guru: those of the former are either disturbed patients or intellectuals who want to better understand their own mind. This is, for instance, the case when psychoanalysis represents, for some Westerners, an inner contact with their symbolic functions which may have been severely repressed by a scientific and technical education. The ‘customers’ of a guru, in India, may come from different milieus, including the very simple one; however, in order to be accepted into the inner circle of a guru, one has to be adhikari, "prepared", that is to say one has to have a basic mental balance somewhat superior to the average.
There is no termination of the contract binding guru and disciple apart from liberation (moksha), which could also be attained in a following life if it does not come during this one. This state of liberation is not a ‘catatonic’ state or a state of unconsciousness, even if the yogi goes through phases of enstasis (samadhi) in order to reach it. "How" used to say Ramakrishna "may a yogi, constantly looking for consciousness, reach a state of unconsciousness?"
Compared to the training of a disciple to become a guru, lasting till the death of his own guru, psychotherapists’ training looks short. A didactic psychoanalysis lasts about three hundred to four hundred hours. Theoretically, the therapists should continue to analyse themselves, but who are those who take time for laying down or sitting for several hours a day as it is done by the Indian spiritual seekers (sadhakas) in order to understand their own mind in a direct manner? It is well thought of in the gurus’ milieu, to have undergone a period of twelve years in solitude, without having to help anybody but oneself, and having as one’s main activity intensive meditation. All yogis do not do as much, but I mention here this fact in order to show that the time involved is very different and that, quite possibly, the quality of results obtained is also generally quite different. The probing period of a disciple before initiation (diksha) is measured in months or in years. It is not a question, like in psychotherapy, of some initial meetings wherein a contract of short or middle length is established. Each type of help relationship has its usefulness, but their levels and aims are different.
The rule of keeping secret the non-professional life of the therapist looks strange to a Hindu. If one cannot directly verify the way in which the one who gives advice puts it into practice in his own life, how it is possible to trust him? Practically, he is trusted a little, nothing more, and the therapy is a little effective, nothing more. Would not neutrality, under the pretext of being an objective mirror of transferential emotions of the patient, represent a fear of managing a normal relationship with him? Is not secrecy an easy solution for the therapist, or a protection for the beginner therapists who do not know either what to say about themselves, or which elements would be useful to their patients in a given moment of their relationship? To put it in a nutshell, one may expect from a psychotherapist a certain level of coherence between what he says and what he does, and from a guru a complete coherence. This makes an important difference of level.
In the classical analytical frame, there are two main types of resistance: too many words (intellectualism) and too much emotion (abreaction). With respect to evolution, it is conceived in yoga that the whole of psychoanalysis could be considered as an intellectual defence against a real process of inner evolution. Theoretically, the gurus discourage an excess of verbalization by their disciples, because their proper method, yoga, aims at the silence of the mind. As far as excess of emotion is concerned, it can be channelled in devotion to the guru (guru-bhakti) by, among other things, chanting and music. If the gurus interpret relatively little of what is said to them by their disciples, it is because they think that the latter are mature enough to link, through meditation, their present experiences with their past conditioning (samskaras). Moreover, they decline to assume a "power of interpreter," or to play at the scientific version of thought reading, except in exceptional cases. To speak in a more psychological language, the guru does not want to play the role of seer, even under the pretext of awakening an easy and quick trust in his disciple.
It is difficult to know when a treatment has to come to an end. One of Freud’s last books has the significant title: Terminated Psychoanalysis, Interminable Psychoanalysis. Theoretically, the transference is "liquidated" in a simple way: the patient says to his analyst: "You have healed me... I have paid you... we are free." In practice, the transference on the person becomes transference on the method. Analysis becomes not only a method of introspection, but also a world-view and a way of being in society. On the contrary, Yoga of knowledge or Zen seem to be methods able to transcend themselves; it is an important difference. The disciple maintains a veneration for the guru who has led him to liberation. Nevertheless, at the moment of monastic initiation (sannyas), the guru prostrates himself before his disciple: now they are equal, each of them may follow his own path.
Transference and Devotion
A positive basic transference is necessary for a good therapy. Sacha Nacht used to say: "Literature of transference? But it is the whole psychoanalytic literature!"11 In his own way also Jung asserted: "Transference is the most important phase of the individuation process."12 The analyst, because of his calm, is a model for his patient; he teaches him to take his distance with respect to his own anxieties. What seems to be a detour by somebody else is actually a help for attaining the consciousness of the detached inner observer, through a kind of identification of the patient with the therapist: "Identification is the fundamental value on which the individual is built up,"13 said Freud. Even more clearly than Freud, Marcel Jousse constructed a fundamental anthropological law based on identification by imitation, which he called "mimism". René Girard as well has laid a considerable emphasis on this law of learning through imitation, which he calls "mimesis."14 This is so evident with the child that there is a tendency to overlook it. Also the Hindus have a clear-cut awareness of the importance of the projections and transference of the disciple on his guru. A disciple of Ma Anandamayi told me: "All we may say about Ma is our own projections."
At which level does the guru accept the devotion and the desire of unity of his disciple? Certainly not at a physical level; as in psychotherapy, the guru-disciple relationship excludes sexual relations, except in some rather decadent sects, like the sahajikas of Bengal or the vamacharas, marginal Tantrists who had a certain development during the Middle Ages. The guru does not even look for a union of the unconscious with the disciple; the therapists, in order to have more chance of finding the right interpretation, seek such a unity between their own unconscious and their patient’s unconscious. Milton Erickson said that he entered into hypnotic trance at the same time as his patients and then he followed his own intuition in order to give the right suggestion. This kind of temporary symbiosis becomes a tricky problem for the therapist: may he really remain non-identified while communicating with the unconscious of his patient? And if he cannot do that, in what way is he a therapist? This is not the kind of question that can be solved in an intellectual escapade... Through such a habit of symbiosis, does not the therapist himself risk living his life through the one he is curing? Does he not risk, by chance, having a "vicarious life," as Guggenbuehl-Craig said?15
The transference upon the therapist remains limited. Whatever his ability in interpretation, or the quantity of psychological recipes known by him, he remains first of all someone who earns his living and who is paid for listening to others. The Sadguru is, totally and in a lasting way, engaged in spiritual life; for this he deserves and receives worship, a massive and prolonged transference from his disciples. He does not even need to influence; it is enough for him just to be. His force of being has enough intensity to awaken the force of self-healing in those who come to see him and who suffer. "Go, your faith has saved you" said Christ. And, as we have seen above, the guru represents the mother; this is another reason for the transference that may be placed upon him.
The Methods of Milton Erickson and the Indian Guru
I have, till now, evoked rather the psychotherapies of psychoana-lytic inspiration. I would like, at present, to specify some similarities between the Indian guru and a therapist who has been considered as an original thinking master by many American schools of psychotherapy: Milton Erickson. Among the many therapeutic recipes by Erickson, some are often found among the Indian gurus: the open suggestion, for instance, by which one by-passes the patient’s resistances by speaking about somebody else, or by telling a story which seems a free association of the therapist but which aims really at the patient. Through the method of sequences of acceptance (yes set) and truism, some evident affirmations (you are twenty-four years old, you are Mr. So and So...) are associated to suggestions which are less so (...and you are going to pass your upcoming examination without fright). This method consents to mix therapeutic influence in an average conversation; it is often used by the gurus as well. The ‘literalism’ consists in taking literally what the patient says in a status of deep relaxation, and in being aware that he could take equally literally the suggestions made to him in such a moment. This literalism is also found between guru and disciple: their relationship may likely take the aspect of children’s play, in which what is said has its actuality in full right. The imitation of the patient by the psychologist with a therapeutic aim may consist, for instance, (taking here an anecdote of Erickson himself), of walking up and down the consultation room with a patient who complains that he cannot stop moving and so doing for some time a "therapeutic march"; or it is to speak the incomprehensible jargon of a schizophrenic (schizophasy) during some hours in order to again establish contact with him.16 In a general way, the good therapist, like the good guru, learns quickly to speak the language of the patient and to act with what the latter brings him. Erickson gave a familial touch to his therapies. He could go walking with his patients, or introducing his relatives to them in the therapeutic process. He did not have any elaborate theory about personality, but a solid practical philosophy of life. He advised his patients to awaken the inner resources by self-hypnosis, corresponding more or less to concentration (dharana) in Yoga, and he asked them to remember, in the deepest meaning of the word. "You know already," he said to them, "but you do not know that you know."17 Such advice could be a good definition of meditation (dhyana).
An analogy between Erickson and the Indian yogi is worth pointing out: the non-identification with the body; Erickson had two attacks of poliomyelitis. At the time of the first attack at the age of seventeen, he could move only his eyes, the rest of his body was paralyzed. He almost cured himself, but at the time of his second attack, at the age of fifty one years, he lost forever the use of his legs and practiced psychotherapy in a wheelchair for the last thirty years of his life. His energy, which could no longer be expressed in the usual activities of his body, had been transformed in an intense awareness. It is precisely such an activity of consciousness that is sought by the yogi through the immobility of meditation. Erickson’s habit of not identifying himself with his body, is surely to be related to the way by which he knew how to create his own path by not identifying himself with the therapeutic fashions of his period; most of the practitioners had the tendency to consider the latter as "the" reality.
Notwithstanding all these common elements, there are clear differences between the Indian Sadguru and Erickson: the latter made short therapies, did not insist on a long term personal practice for his patient and, regardless of what he says, he did not appear dissatisfied about his power to influence people, without their own awareness. His idea of "prescribing the symptom" (for instance, to tell a overeater to gulp down four boxes of chocolate in order to be disgusted once and for all) can work for some "small symptoms", in order to unlock a situation wedged in the frame of a short term therapy, but it could also act as a destructive suggestion if it is wrongly used, for instance systematically and for a long time.
Like Erickson, Carl Rogers has developed his ideas primarily with respect to short term therapies.18 Nevertheless, his central idea, "empathy" between therapist and patient, is also, it can be said, a central idea of the relationship between guru and disciple. The Master, by seeing the Absolute in all, knows how to give to all, and especially to those who ask him for advice, an "unconditionally positive gaze."
What Reflection about the Guru May Bring to the Psychotherapist
By studying what a Sadguru is, the therapist may learn how to improve his practice: he may better see how to avoid, for instance, flattering the client by approving, if by nothing else than through his silence in certain key moments, the blunders made by the latter. "Silence means consent"... It is, nevertheless, a delicate matter, because to tell a patient straightaway that one does not agree with him, risks the relationship stopping right there. The guru’s method is to freely give love from the beginning, and to increase little by little the level of requirements suggested by him. The psychotherapist could also better understand how to have a good therapeutic relationship without letting it be ‘eroticized’. It could be said: "If eroticism helps the relationship, why not?" Maybe, but the only problem is that it does not help in the long term; behind an immediate interest, it leads to a reciprocal distrust, hindering a real therapeutic action.
The main elements in the guru-disciple relationship that could interest the therapist may be concentrated in seven points:
1. To Clearly consider the fact that work on oneself is a life-long labour. To do a short psychotherapy and then stop all inner work will not lead very far, whatever the qualities of the consulted therapist and of his method could be. To claim that one "meditates in action" is often to cheat oneself. It is true that one has this end in mind, but it is already difficult enough to realise it in practice; it is already not even easy to meditate correctly when one is properly seated and has nothing else to do, eat alove doing jowething. A comparison may help to grasp this first point: if one has had a rotten tooth cured by a dentist, this should not lead one to think that from that time on one’s teeth no longer need cleaning.
2. In the long run, it is better to be fixed on the mind’s potentialities than on its pathological aspects. Jalal-ud-Din Roumi, a Sufi master of Asia Minor in the Middle Ages, used to say: "If you pass your time looking at the floor, you will have no chance of catching sight of the ceiling." I have listened to a therapist who translated this idea in a manner that could not be more concrete: "You could start again to speak to me about your problems in this sitting, but you have to pay double. If you begin to talk about your potentialities, you shall pay half-rate."
It is better to devote the little free time one has mainly to developing the usual awareness of the actual instant through meditation practice, than to overcharge the mind with theoretical psychological elaborations, which in practice are as useful as sword strokes in water. This intellectual knowledge rather runs the risk of acting as a buffer between the actual patient and the actual therapist.
4. Acquiring the habit of finding in oneself one’s own therapeutic resources and, once one has secured a little professionality and maturity, stopping going from seminar to seminar and from one training to another. Therapists want to have more and more therapeutic recipes; but in the same way as the theoretical knowledge just mentioned above, such recipes, being sometime contradictory to one another, risk acting as a buffer, hindering rather than helping in a direct relationship with a patient. Montaigne used to say: "All ages are good for learning, but all of them are not suitable for schoolish amuse-ments."
5. A psychotherapist reflecting about the link between guru and renouncer perhaps should also rethink the received opinion according to which payment is an indispensable factor to the success of a counselling relationship. The disciple, normally, makes some donations to his guru, but it is not a fixed price meant to pay for a "consultation". For Hindus, the Sadguru is entitled to spiritual power first of all because he is a renouncer, although there are some exceptions to the rule, where the renunciation is only on the mental level. In our Western context it is clear that a therapist needs a salary in order to live. Certainly, if the patient pays, this means that he has at least a minimum of motivation; but he may also pay for as an act of "resistance", for convincing himself that the therapist is his employee, that he is financially interested and because of this the patient has no chances to be cured by him; or even, if he has a bad conscience, we have seen that he may pay in order to collect from the curer an approving silence when he can no longer manage alone with the reproaches of his own conscience. This question of payment is at least ambiguous and, in my opinion, there is no need to look for too many theoretical justifications for what is first of all a practical necessity for assuring the material life of the therapist.
6. The guru, by accepting disciples, takes upon himself their karma, the untoward consequences of their antecedent actions. He has prepared himself for this delicate task through a considerable meditation practice. This fact may give matter for reflection to those among the Western psychotherapists who are sufficiently sensible to perceive the risks of their job. It is perhaps because of this influence of such a "taking over of negative karma" that Buddhist or Tantric texts do not recommend to take a medical doctor as a guru. He does not have his mind free enough, because of his professional and human responsibilities, to be able to devote himself to an intensive spiritual practice and, additionally, to his possible disciples.
7. Psychotherapy has seen a certain number of links between libido and portions of psychical activity which looked very far from it; it talks a lot about repression and little about sublimation. For Indian psychology, sublimation (ojhas) is actually the means to avoid repression, at least for the minority who worry about internal evolution. It is the result of understanding the functioning of mind. If sublimation or transmutation of sexual energy is done even partially, repression of a second basic instinct is avoided: the instinct of awareness, the spiritual instinct. If this latter is kept under the bushel, many psychical troubles may occur, the most evident being existential depression, as well as its equivalents or consequences: toxicomania, alcoholism, hypochondria, and sometimes suicide. I have developed these points with many other questions, which are at the hinge of Western and Eastern psychologies, in another book, titled Elements of Spiritual Psychology (published in Paris, Albin Michel, 1992) and in a third one to be published first in Paris: "Healing one’s own Soul: Meditation and Psychology."
From Psychotherapy to Meditation
Without playing the guru, may the psychotherapist get benefits for himself from a meditation practice, and can he initiate his patients into it? We will here consider these points separately.
May the Psychotherapist Benteeit for Himself from Meditation Practice?
The psychotherapist may benefit from it on many levels: to start with he may develop his therapist’s intuition, which is an essential factor of his efficacy. All agree in recognizing this, but it is not said how to refine this intuition: certainly a didactic psychotherapy may be made over time, or through reading literature, or going to the cinema to see "psychological dramas" or watching what happens around oneself; but the most direct way for developing one’s psychological intuition remains meditation; it favours a "habit of presence in the moment", a habit that is very quickly lost if one does not consciously keep it up.
Another benefit of doing meditation for the therapist between two working days is that one gets distance from the seen pathologies and so will not report or project them unknowingly on the patients he shall meet next day. It is said that the principal cause of bacteriological contamination among patients in a hospital is the medical doctors who examine them one after another without washing their hands in between; the same goes in psychotherapy; it is easy to "contaminate" a patient who is not so severe with the anguish of a desperate patient seen just before. An evident criterion for judging a good therapist is whether he actnelly makes his patients feel better. But I should say, to be more modest that he already a god therapist is who does not involve one patient in the psychic suffering of the others, through excessive pathological labelling for instance. Jung seems to me being more realistic than Freud when he says: "The therapist is more the victim than the creator of the transference."19
There is nothing better than a regular practice of meditation to give a therapist a real spiritual opening in his work. This goes further than a simple intellectual interest regarding spiritual paths, or than two or three inner experiences which came during a week-end workshop... If this practice is accompanied by an improvement in daily behaviour, it will be an effective inner progress for therapists. Too often therapists, because they do not know how to meditate for the or imagine that they do not have time to do it, believe that the development of professional skill may replace a spiritual work on themselves. To my mind, this is an illusion. It is enough to see how many healers, notwithstanding their good knowledge of the strings of their job, have a rather dull personal life, with nothing special - if not disturbed.
Certainly, meditation may appear to be a work "in the vagueness", especially at the beginning. Some of the attained results may give the impression of disappearing, and the task may seem infinite. It is precisely for this reason that a regular practice, independent from the immediate impression about their results, as well as the link with a spiritual Master, are important. Meditation brings consciousness close to the body. "The unconscious is structured like a language," Lacan used to say. This may be true for the unconscious of analysis that is explored by the word; but the unconscious of meditation, explored thanks to a clarification of the body-mind link, reveals itself as being structured as a body: perception of the unconscious re flect the method employed for having access to it. Meditation allows one to question oneself before having to be questioned by others. Too often, we hope to obtain something like an "eternal happiness" by fixing ourselves, by mummifying our egos in the same way as the Pharaohs hoped to attain such a happiness by letting their bodies be mummified.
I agree with Milton Erickson and the Palo Alto School in saying that to propose a long term psychoanalytic cure may have the effect of negative suggestion on a patient: actually, by telling him that the symptom about which he comes to consult the doctor is but the tip of an iceberg, it is understood that he may be forced to spend a lot of time and money, to become dependent upon a frustrating therapist, and all this for an uncertain result; faced with this perspective, often he prefers to keep his own symptom rather than to get involved in therapy. Meditation has over long-term psychoanalysis the benefit of being suitable for practice at home, of not costing anything and of not rendering one too dependent, even if one follows the advice of a spiritual Master.
Obviously, there is need of some discipline and order are reeded to be able to remain face to face with oneself during a given period of time every day. If one does not have it, then it is better to join a group or to do individual therapy. I said at the beginning of this part of the book that the therapist must abstain from playing the guru. In fact, if he penetrates too much into the "inner garden" of the one who are close to him–either they may run away, or way be disturbed. They may no longer know what they feel by themselves because of the constant interference of the one who has a little power of influence. They may deeply doubt themselves, which way lead to a dissociation of personality and to a delirium at the worst. I have seen many times cases of parents who, either through psychoanalysis, or after a little practice of meditation, had acquired some knowledge of mind; by wishing to apply this new knowledge to one of their children under pretence of helping him, they pushed him towards schizophrenia.
May Patients in Therapy Benefit from Simple Techniques of Meditation?
The answer is positive: it will help them to take their life into their own hands. There is no need to talk directly of meditation, a word that, after all, is but a label; one may speak of therapeutic relaxation or of exercises in becoming aware. Denominations do not mean much, the important thing is that the patient quickly learns that he may have a direct and beneficial relationship with himself; this does not exclude undertaking a therapy. Some narrow-minded psychotherapists may call this desire of taking one’s life into one’s own hands "megalomania", but is this not simply because they feel that patients are escaping their hold? In the same way, if Christian Churches are reticent to teach precise meditation techniques—apart from the fact that they do not know them at all—is it not because they fear losing their followers? Even if they do not speak about "megalomania", but rather allude to a "luciferian pride" for the devotee who does not want to be part of the "small flock" any longer, at the basis of their refusal of meditation is there not the same idea, namely fear of competition? And yet in practice, the three approaches, psychological, religious and spiritual, can coexist without too much conflict.
It is true that many practitioners of meditation also have their psychological tensions, but meditation is used first to face one’s tensions, not to solve them all at once as if by a stroke of magic. A beginner may be helped by a therapist having enough knowledge of meditation. Someone who wants a more intensive practice must look for a spiritual Master. Such a necessity has always existed and there is no reason for it to change. Some books about the secondary effects of yoga or meditation, even if they are well done like that of Dennis Boyes,20 risk, nevertheless, suggesting negative phenomena which in themselves would perhaps not have appeared if they had not previously read about in a book. In a technical language, they risk creating a "negative Rosenthal effect." We are in a particular field, that of the mind, and it is often difficult to distinguish between fear of a problem and a problem "actually" existing. For this reason, trust in a spiritual Master, who evokes only those problems that one is facing in a given time and nothing else, will save much time and energy. If one does not have one, the mere idea that one can be met with in future is already a help: "when the disciple is ready, the master appears."
Some people have the tendency to think that "the great discoveries of psychology" will, in the near future, exempt human beings from a labour of interiorisation and meditation. It is a naive idea: how could we say that studies of metallurgy, about the texture of a piano’s strings or of the anatomy of fingers will take the place of a normal training for the one who wishes to play piano? They are two different fields. Even if a spiritual, or transpersonal psychology is a help, one cannot dispense with either practising, or, from a given stage onwards, with frequenting a spiritual Master, according to what spiritual traditions say. In human science in general and especially in psychology, it has been perceived that technical language, reassuring as it is in the beginning, had led to many false problems. It is like creating a few notions only to have the pleasure of playing with them by speaking about them. Every epoch has its own sophists. There is now a tendency in human science to go back to common-sense language.21 If Indian yogis have not developed a psychology of the Western type, it is because they consider it to be more of an obstruction than anything else, and this by referring to the very experience that they have of their own minds. I have explained this point in my second book .22
Psychotherapy is a preparation to meditation in the sense that it creates insights, which lead consciousness to waver between mental images and their verbalization. Meditation continues and deepens the process by making consciousness oscillate between mental images and sensations. When the link between these two levels can be grasped moment after moment, meditation becomes really interesting and rewarding.
In the beginning stage, that is that of psychotherapy, consciousness is for mainly polarized by the relationship with the therapist, that is to say mainly by the function of language. In the following stage, that of meditation, consciousness clearly perceives sensations as such and in relation to mental images. It stops the automatic associations between sensations, which are the basis of mental agitations, and at the same time it induces that state of calmness that is the source of our best intuitions: that state which is the very definition itself of Yoga: "stoppage of mind" (citta vriddhi nirodha, or the beginning of Aphorisms of Yoga by Patanjali.23). It is equally through this stillness of the mind that the Divine can manifest Himself, as the Psalmist says (Ps.46.11)
"Be still and know that I am Eternal One"