We experience Divine awakening through a process
which includes the involvement of another human being.
Individuals experience spiritual awakening in a variety of ways.
Historically it is known that an individual, like Buddha, can sit alone and obtain full realization. One can be walking down the "road to Damascus" and be struck by the power of God and realize his or her oneness with Creation.
More typically, however, we experience Divine awakening through a process which includes the involvement of another human being.
The focus of this discussion is about the psychological and spiritual dynamics that occur between two individuals when spiritual consciousness is first ignited.
As more and more individuals become interested in spiritual practice they seek out psychotherapists who offer spiritually oriented psychotherapy, yoga teachers, and yoga therapists for support and guidance.
Given the rapidly growing number of individuals looking for spiritual understanding, the interpersonal dynamics of spiritual development becomes important to understand.
The power inherent in the spiritual world makes this discussion important because it is so easy to become confused, conflicted and sidetracked during the initial phase of spiritual awakening.
This discussion is intended for both the individual in the throes of a spiritual unfoldment and any individual who might have served to initiate that process in another, whether he or she may be a professional psychotherapist, yoga teacher, yoga therapist or friend.
The more we can understand about the nature of consciousness, the easier it is to ride with the powerful currents that are designed to transform our lives.
There are a variety of contexts in which a powerful spiritual dynamic can occur between two people. It can occur between a client and a psychotherapist, between a student and a teacher, and between two individuals apart from any defined healing or teaching relationship. I choose to call this phenomena "Activation."
I like this term because unconscious shadow material, attachments, and identification with the little self, as opposed to the soul or higher self, are quickly brought to the surface.
There appears to be very little written about this powerful process, although it is commonly experienced in spiritual communities and between individuals who have a desire for spiritual awakening.
I suspect that professional therapists, and perhaps, even yoga therapists who are newer to spiritual phenomena and experience are less familiar with this dynamic. Understanding the nature and process of activation can be helpful for both the individual being activated and the one serving as the channel for the spiritual force.
In this discussion I am choosing to make a distinction between two important interpersonal dynamics, one being psychological in nature and the other spiritual in essence.
The former is well understand as the process of "transference." This latter spiritual process is much different than transference phenomena, as classically understood in the psychoanalytic literature.
I will refer to this spiritual dynamic that occurs between two individuals as "activation."
Let us begin with a clear understanding of transference.
I believe it is important to consider this classical dynamic because many individuals are involved in counseling relationships that also include spiritual functions.
More and more, yoga teachers are becoming "yoga therapist" a new brand of professionals who use classical yoga methods in conjunction with psychological processes.
Engaging in emotional material opens the door for transference reactions to emerge.
Since transference and activation are different functions, but can occur in the same context, it is important to understand them both and know the different interventions that are appropriate for each dynamic.
Knowing others is wisdom;
Knowing the self is enlightenment.
There have been volumes of fine literature offered regarding the nature of transference and counter-transference in the therapeutic relationship. This psychological phenomena typically resides within a professional relationship.
The experience is related to a patient and doctor and the feelings that become elicited within that context. Powerful unconscious feelings, longings, and desires become activated due to the love, care, compassion and helpfulness of the therapist.
Let us be clear about the precise definition of transference. Ralph Greenson1 , a recognized expert in the field of psychoanalysis defines it as:
Transference is the experiencing of feeling, drives, attitudes, fantasies and defenses toward a person in the present which do not befit that person but are a repetition of reactions originating in regard to significant persons of early childhood, unconsciously displaced onto figures in the present.
This definition rests on four basic propositions:
(1) Transference is a variety of object relationship.
(2) Transference phenomena repeats a past relationship to an object.
(3) The mechanism of displacement is the essential process in transference reactions.
(4) Transference is a regressive phenomenon. For a psychic phenomenon to be considered transference, all four of these elements must be present.
A transference reaction....is a relationship involving three whole people - a subject, a past object, and a present object. In the analytic situation it usually comprises the patient, some significant person from the past, and the analyst.
The patient may project inner realities that relate to his or her mother and father onto the therapist.
The therapist, as well, may project his or her feelings, regarding early parental patterns or unaccepted aspects of his or her own psyche onto the patient.
The latter phenomena of counter-transference offers a mirror to the therapist for unresolved issues.
These types of projections hold the potential for tremendous psychological growth when an observing ego is present and the feelings can be acknowledged, perceived and explored. The observing perspective allows for the careful investigation of these feelings, which functions to deter "acting out."
The acting out is defined as some attempt to live out the feelings and obtain gratification and fulfillment for the various needs and desires, rather than use them as a source for introspection and analysis.
The ultimate goal, if the patient has sufficient ego strength, is to accept the early disappointments in life and develop aspects of the self that can provide self-validation, self-acceptance, and self-love.
The individual eventually emerges stronger, more integrated, able to forgive his or her parents for their shortcomings, and capable of living in the real world with an ability to be honest, open, loving, and tolerant, given a newfound ability to understand and accept hurt and disappointments.
A case example might help clarify the nature and usefulness of transference. Mary has been seen for four years in once to twice a week psychodynamic psychotherapy.
She has a history of severe physical, emotional and sexual abuse. She describes her parents as utterly sadistic and cruel. The years of early trauma led to a multiple personality disorder that was resolved after three years of treatment.
The next year of treatment focused upon the immense narcissistic wounds to the self and the intense self-hatred that would be activated upon any felt sense of abandonment and rejection.
For example, when Mary began to reduce the frequency of sessions, due to financial reasons, to every other week treatment, I needed to fill her customary hour with a regularly scheduled patient. Mary had just changed her appointment time and I assumed that the new hour would be quite acceptable to her.
The following week she changed her mind and wanted her original time back and I informed her that it was no longer available. She responded with a deep sense of rejection and became very despondent.
She took my action as a sign that I had no respect for her, she was worthless, and felt our relationship was severely damaged. My unilateral decision regarding the management of my practice initiated her feelings of abandonment. Since I did not consult with her, she felt she was not worthy of my interest.
My unilateral action was experienced as a severe abandonment.
The transference reaction was compounded by a past interaction from a previous session in which Mary had offered some new goals that I felt were rather grandiose and unrealistic, and therefore, I could not promise her that I would help her achieve those particular goals. She experienced my "lack of support" as a rejection of her core.
Once again the early patterns of rejection and abandonment from her parents became rekindled by the therapeutic relationship. After weeks of discussion, we were able to sift out the difference between the past and the present and finds new ways to deal with the present hurt and disappointment. Her recognition that old, previous wounds had been touched helped to restore the positive working alliance.2
The therapeutic value of transference is that is takes the therapy out of a discussion about past events and brings the deeper psychological material into the present. The patient has the opportunity to relive painful affects with a more sensitive and compassionate figure, the therapist, and find new and more functional ways to deal with deep wounds.
Typically, maladaptive defense structures develop as a way to defend against these deeper injuries to the self, such as denial, avoidance, and splitting. These more primitive defense mechanism do not allow for the direct expression and exploration of the wound, hence the opportunity for a creative and successful resolution to a conflict is lost.
The possibility for psychological growth is missed and the more primitive defenses typically create secondary problems of confusion, isolation and hurt due to poor communication. Transference ultimately, when clearly identified and worked through, can be a very powerful force in the healing process.
The process of activation is inherently a spiritual function in contract to transference which is psychological in nature.
The process of spiritual unfoldment is discussed in detail in my book, Sacred Healing.3 The reader is referred to that discussion for a more in depth perspective. However, it is important to explain that the process of spiritual awakening and spiritual unfoldment unleashes a natural process in which aspects of the mind and personality, which encase the soul and create the delusion of separation from the Divine, are magnified and brought into awareness.
This is a classical view of the Higher Self or soul found in Sankhya yoga philosophy.4 This process is very intense and is the result of the great influx of light or spiritual energy. Since the individual is typically taken by surprise, a level of psychological maturity and emotional detachment helps one to distinguish between the material in the little self or ego5 and the soul.
A brief discussion regarding the process of spiritual development is in order. In the spiritual or metaphysical view of the self, the essential Self or soul exists within each of us.
The soul has consciousness that continues throughout eternity, and this consciousness is not bound by time and space. Life, as consciousness, began before we were born and continues after the death of the physical body.
Consciousness moves through the illusion of time from one incarnation to another, adopting the form of the current physical body.
However, the essential nature of the Self, as defined by Sankhya yoga philosophy, is "Sat, Chit, Ananda," or Consciousness or Being, Intelligence or Awareness, and Bliss.
Our essential nature is created in this Divine image and the soul is an individualized aspect of the Divine, just as a wave is an individual aspect of the ocean.
The soul rises out of the Divine substance, eventually to return to complete union.
The soul, being a part of the Divine, contains the Divine essence of love, peace, joy, bliss, light, wisdom, and energy.
Ultimately, there is no separation between the soul and omnipresent Spirit.
The mystical view of the Self perceives the apparent reality of the body, mind, and emotions as encasements around the soul.
An individual loses his or her direct experience of the soul to the degree that he or she identifies with the outer, transitory aspects of the self. Identification with the mind, body, and emotions comprises the biggest obstacle to self-realization or direct knowledge of the soul.
The spiritual process of unfoldment places less emphasis upon the experiences of the body, mind and emotions, the life-substance of the little self or ego, and encourages the aspirant to seek the deeper sense of self in the soul.
Spiritual practices such as yoga meditation provide an opportunity to refine oneís ability to discern between the soul and the grosser aspects of consciousness that are expressed through the mind, body and emotions.
The ultimate goal of self-realization is to stabilize oneís identity with Spirit and not be caught in the more limited aspects of consciousness that identify with the outer senses.
Soul:The individualized expression of Spirit that is by nature ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy. The soul is encased in the physical body, the astral body, and the causal body until it reaches full liberation.
Mind: The mental, intellectual aspect of the self. The yogic system actually addresses two qualities of mind: buddhi and manas. Buddhi refers to the discriminative intelligence that is relatively more intuitive in nature, and manas refers to the quality of mind that is in turn more related to sense consciousness.
Body: The physical vehicle for the soul. Emotions: The emotional system that relates to the expression of the personality.
This particular cosmology leads to very different methods, techniques and interventions than does a traditional psychological view of existence.
Where the psychological perspective would encourage the careful investigation and experience of emotions and thoughts, the spiritual context encourages the individual to maintain a calm and slightly detached position vis a vis emotion, physical sensations, and thought.
The process of identifying with the awareness or observer of the phenomena, along with other spiritual practices, ultimately leads to an identification with the soul as the essential Self.
The process of activation can hasten the process of spiritual awakening because it quickly highlights those aspects of the little self or ego that inherently contain attachments and unfulfilled desires.
Remember, ancient yoga philosophy explains that it is our attachments, desires, and identification with the outer senses that draw us back into worldly consciousness to continue the cycle of death and rebirth.6
The spiritual aspirantís highest goal is to maintain conscious awareness of Absolute Spirit while living in the world. "Be in the world, but not of the world," is the challenge.
The process of liberation is a slow and steady transmutation of life force energy away from the outer senses that sustain body/mind identification to the inner spiritual centers within the astral spine and brain.
Since liberation is not about "doing" per se, but about the nature of oneís Being, the energetic reality becomes extremely potent in shifting consciousness.
In the process of activation, aspects of the ego and soul are highlighted, which provides an opportunity for evolution to occur at a faster rate than through normal linear development.
The spiritual forces of shakti exists outside of normal time and, thereby, provide an accelerated experience of personal development. Aspects of the ego and soul are brought to conscious awareness at a faster pace and can, therefore, be transmuted on subtle energetic levels outside of time, as well.
The necessary ingredient in order to move outside of time is a quality of detachment.
Identification with the personality and all of its ego desires and attachments will hinder the rapid transmutation of energy and create a state of extreme distress and turmoil. One can become stuck and prolonged the process of transformation by overly identifying with personal needs and desires.
The spiritual process of surrendering to the Divine Will requires an ability to acknowledge personal needs and desires, but to then place them aside as one turns to God and trusts that he knows what is best for us.
In this context, God becomes a living reality that takes us to new levels as he becomes our primary source of guidance and support. Our relationship with God deepens as we are helped to move beyond our limited beliefs about our strengths and abilities. We literally feel God working through us and helping us in everyday life when we choose to place our personal desires second to our love for God.
The most mature spiritual attitude is, "Whatever you want for me is what I want. Your will be done. I give my life to you so I can become an expression of your wonder and grace." This is not an easy state to access.
It can only happen as we choose to place our egoic needs and desires in the proper perspective.
For example, it is common to meet people who have a profound depth of spiritual realization, and upon hearing their personal life story, find out that they have undergone severe physical injury or disease.
Their process of healing and recovery, because they were on the edge and without hope, forced them to hand over their life to God. In this process of surrendering and asking for help, they opened the door for God to come into their lives in a real and tangible way.
They were able to learn, through their difficulties, the difference between their own desire and will and the Divine Will. Once the gate to the kingdom has been open, the flow of grace is always available. However, there is no heat like that of thwarted desires: frustration, rage, despair, and outrage are the natural expression when an individual is unwilling or unable to let go and allow the process of transformation to unfold.
Acceptance and surrender are the divine lubricants that allow the little self to slip away, revealing the radiance and splendor of the soul.
On a more theoretical note, activation, like transference, also requires three distinct parts. Two separate human beings and a Divine consciousness provide the necessary ingredients. The human beings can be of either sex, and no definitive healing or teaching relationship needs to exist.
The Divine consciousness is that spark of Spirit that resides within us all. There is an important difference here, however, between activation and transference. Where a real human figure in the past is required in the transference reaction, no real past figure is part of the activation process.
The three part relationship typically occurs between two real people and the spiritual realization of expansive love and bliss, the Divine consciousness.
Let us remember transference phenomena repeat a past relationship to an object (a real human being). Herein lies a significant difference.
There is no real past relationship that is being repeated and displaced with activation.
The original figure of the transference relationship, typically father or mother, did not initiate a divine awakening or transmit spiritual energy. The activation process involves a new and progressive reality, in contrast to the old and regressive aspects found in the transference reaction.
Certainly, when the individual is very stubborn, attached, and unwilling to release the contents and desires of the ego, then the shadow material becomes dominant in the current activating relationship.
The individual becomes angry and accusatory because the object of desire will not fulfill the fantasy to unite and share in the mutual experience and expression of the Divine.
The individual fails to see that the true value is to merge with the Self or soul and the Divine, not with the outer being that may have activated this inner realization.
In a subtle way, this technically differs from transference material because of the absence of the past real figure.
The activation material, I suggest, touches upon our deepest desire to merge with God as states of Divine love and bliss. This is a longing of the soul, not of the infantile self in a psychological context.
The ego seeks this divine goal through drugs, sex and alcohol. This spiritual longing is a higher desire that addresses needs of the Higher Self for a direct, personal relationship with God.
The problems that arise in the activation process are the result of our willful resistance to let go of the egoic need for control and continued attempt to possess the external human object of desire.
In actuality, the spiritual paradox reveals that more is obtained as we learn to let go.
The activation process teaches us to let go, and learn to stabilize our identity in the soul. In a practical way, this means that as we open to the profound states of love that are activated by another person, we learn to expand our love to a universal level which includes all of humanity.
The love experienced becomes more impersonal and is seen as an expression of God in the form of one human being.
The need to possess and control the loving relationship begins to melt away as personal desires are transcended and a higher state of unconditional love is obtained.
The value of this paradoxical process is that our consciousness becomes transmuted by the power of the loving shakti as the energy is sustained within the spine and not expressed outward through the senses, as would naturally occur in a personal relationship.
This spiritual process is very foreign by Western standards which glorify love and relationship and encourage us to act upon the great feelings of love. The Western mind can only explain non action on these wonderful feelings as a result of fear of intimacy, an inability to commit, or just plain cruelty.
The activated individual, longing for fulfillment at a human level, and only understanding the heightened state of love through the filter of personal love, will attempt to use every conceivable means to convince the other to engage at a personal level.
"You must just be afraid to really love." "Donít you think you are just afraid to commit?" "How can you look at me like that if you donít really love me?" These intellectual challenges can seem very manipulative to the activator. It is important to note that although these reactions are occurring at a personality level, they are not necessarily transference phenomena because feelings relating to a real past human being may not be involved.
The limited context of Western development does not lend itself to the expanded realities of spiritual love.
The great awakening of the soul leads to universal love and unconditional love in which all people become the expression of the Beloved. In this higher state, life takes on an entirely different meaning and direction.
It is only possible to arrive at the final goal of liberation as one transcends the little egoic desires. Activation is a process in which we are given the opportunity to work with these forces of attachment and desire, and only through discipline and wisdom can be emerge victorious over the limited ego into the radiance of the soul.
Quite commonly, an individual in the activation process will have visions of some divine beings, and feel ecstatic states of bliss.
The visions may be part of past life memories with the person who initiated the spiritual energy. It is not unusual for an individual to personalize this heightened spiritual experience, which results in the mind reducing the energy to the human experience.
The result is a creation of fantasies that are regarded as divine messages, and that the activator is the perfect mate for the one who has been activated. This latter idea can be very difficult to dislodge.
For example, I spent two years in a spiritual community in the early 1980ís.
One female community member, with whom I had no professional psychotherapy relationship, felt the exchange of light between us and it began a process of spiritual experiences that where quite unique for her. She informed me that she saw a light form in her room one evening and felt that it was my presence. She inwardly heard an inner voice say, "Keep your heart open to him." She interpreted this experience to mean that she was to love me and be available for a personal relationship.
I informed her that I had no awareness of the event and had no conscious involvement with it. I believed that she should accept it as some Divine experience and use it to deepen her love for God. She was sure I was deluded and did not realize the Divine plan. It took her many months to move past her personal explanation and hold the love she felt in a larger spiritual context.
A yoga therapist is very likely to function as a catalyst and activator because the focus of the work is upon breath, energy and consciousness. The transmission of shakti is very likely.
A client can easily mistake the expanded, loving presence of the yoga therapist as a personal expression of desire and connection.
The higher possibility activated in this context allows for a loving and careful holding of the egoís desires for fulfillment in the context of purification and transformation, rather than one of personal relationship. The yoga therapist can be of great assistance by providing a different frame of reference that elevates the intensity of feeling to the spiritual process of awakening to soul realization.
The client can be helped to understand that their interpretation of the divine experience as a sign or premonition regarding human bonding and attachment arises from a limited model regarding human love and feelings. The goal is to provide a steady presence of divine love, unconditional acceptance, and clarity reflecting the soulís nature. It is important to have well developed psychological skills to address the personality because the egoic personality will attempt to define and contain the activating experience during this particular form of spiritual awakening, i.e., the process that is ignited by the consciousness of another.
The activation process is commonly experienced between spiritual aspirants who have awakened their shakti.7 However, activation can occur with a novice who has no previous interest or knowledge of spiritual laws and practices. Realistically, however, a novice in this type of situation would only be new to the spiritual path in this lifetime.
A spiritual awakening of this magnitude must be based upon previous spiritual work, whether in this lifetime or a previous one. Shakti is the life force energy that is activated when the Kundalini8 force at the base of the spine is awakened.
As the Kundalini energy begins to move up the spine, awakening the corresponding chakras9 , or energy vortexes along the spinal column, the individual may experience this new force of energy, shakti, that can be transmitted from one individual to another.
This force, typically serves to awaken the sleeping consciousness and ignite a spiritual awareness in another, resulting in profound states of love, joy and bliss.
This elevation to states of extreme love, joy and bliss, however, are not without their psychological counterparts. The spiritual light that shines upon the consciousness also casts a strong shadow. The backdrop becomes the ego with all its attachments for human love, sense gratification, and personal fulfillment.
The soulís only desire is to love and serve God. The egoís desires are more directed at human fulfillment with a greater sense of power and control in everyday life. The activation process, because of its immense spiritual power, brings out the ego nature with great force.
Aspects of the self that long for attention, human love, personal recognition, power, and gratification are ignited and clamor for expression.
The ultimate gift in this disruptive process is that one can quickly see the unresolved issues that need to be addressed in the ego so further stabilization in the soul can be achieved.
Activation can feel like the fire of purification since deep longings and aspects of the ego are quickly brought to the foreground.
Most commonly, our attachment to our desires creates the suffering. We generally tend to resist the power of Spirit as it moves to transform and purify our consciousness. The practical work of spiritual development is very difficult because we must move beyond the likes and dislikes of the little self or ego to the equanimity of the soul. The soul, by nature, is serene, peaceful, loving and joyful.
These qualities are the result of an inner reality that is untouched by the outer circumstances. One learns to develop this inner peace through the process of internalization of consciousness. The light of spiritual forces shines upon us to illuminate the darker aspects of our consciousness that need transforming: fear, greed, lust, desire, revenge, etc.
The activation process is actually a blessing in that it will speed up this purification.
Even though activation can be a great blessing, it is not without difficulty, as is true with most blessings. The difficulty results from mental confusion. The process can be easier and smoother when the mind does not jump in to define and control the movement of consciousness.
The mindís resistance to "ego death" impedes that transmutation of energy from one state or vibration to another. Hopefully, greater clarity regarding the psychological reactions found in transference phenomenon, and the egoic reactions to spiritual transformation will help students and professionals alike be more insightful during these powerful times. It is especially important to understand these two different functions when both are occurring simultaneously.
The critical factor to remember, however, is to remain lovingly detached during the emotional upheaval that may be unleashed.
If you are the one who has activated another, try to stay as present as you can, holding the mirror to the soul while the little self is being worked over.
Consistency and unconditional love eventually serve as an example for the Higher Selfís expression.
If you are the one who has been activated, then breathe through your desires and longings.
Use the intensity of your personal needs to take you deeper in your relationship with God.
Ask Divine-Self to be your greatest lover and friend. Make you inner life so rich with the love of God that no outer personís love can compare.
It is when we turn all of our desires to Divine-Self that we find real freedom and the peace that resides within our soul.
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1Greenson, Ralph R., The Technique and Practice of Psychoanalysis. New York: International Universities Press, Inc. 1967. p. 171.
2Greenson, Ralph R., The Technique and Practice of Psychoanalysis. New York: International Universities Press, Inc. 1967.
3Mann, Ronald, Sacred Healing. Grass Valley: Blue Dolphin Publishing, Inc. 1997.
4Yogananda, Paramahansa, God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, Royal Science of God-Realization. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1995.
5From a spiritual perspective, ego is the aspect of self that experiences a separation from God. Ego-consciousness is believing that "I" am in total control of "my" life, that "I" am the total creator of "my" existence. The inherent limitation of this notion is that it does not allow for the full, expansive understanding and experience of God-consciousness. This limited ego-identity creates a contracted and reduced field of awareness.
6Yogananda, Paramahansa, God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, Royal Science of God-Realization. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1995.
7Powerful energy force that emanates from the soul and is directed by the will.
8The kundalini, according to yogic philosophy, is a dormant energy located at the base of the spine. When this force is activated, either as the result of yogic practice or as a spontaneous movement, a current of energy proceeds up the astral spine and opens the corresponding chakras along its path. The higher centers of the spine and brain are typically activated when this energy is drawn up from the base of the spine, often resulting in the experience of unconditional Love, deeper intuitive perceptions, and superconscious transcendental Bliss.
9The chakras are spinning vortices of conscious or subtle energy. Each chakra corresponds to various physical glands or organs and is imbued with different states of awareness.
Ronald L. Mann, Ph.D.
755 46th Street
Sacramento, CA 95819
Telephone: (916) 454-1199
Fax: (916) 731-8008