Spiritual Work and Psychotherapy
A view for appreciating the similarities and uniqueness of both spiritual work and psychotherapy, but mostly as relevant to the Diamond Approach
This paper is written for the benefit of teachers and students of the Diamond Approach. It is not intended to be of general applicability, even though it can be useful for individuals who seek to understand spiritual work and psychotherapy, and their relationship. It is not intended to address civic or legal questions and concerns.
©1995 A.Hameed Ali
What is Psychotherapy?
Psychotherapy is recognized by government agencies, training institutions of therapists, the great majority of therapists and most people, as a particular profession that deals with certain areas in life that are not considered in the nature of spiritual work. The Oxford dictionary defines psychotherapy: "treatment of mental disorders by the use of psychological methods." We can view mental disorders to cover a whole range of difficulties, including psychopathology, weak ego structure, neurosis, effects of trauma and severe childhood abuse, and the various categories that DSM IV lists as mental disorders. We can assume what is generally known that there are degrees and kinds of mental disorder.
Some psychotherapists also help individuals with general severe stresses of life, as in major life transitions, and some kinds of therapy focus on understanding the mind or soul, as in psychoanalysis and analytic psychology, which are areas also addressed in spiritual counseling. However, these areas of assistance are not specifically what makes psychotherapy a therapy, and we do not refer students to therapists for this kind of assistance, for our teacher training and our work in general are quite adequate for these concerns. In fact, individuals do not need psychotherapy generally for this kind of suffering, for assistance is available in other kinds of work, and it is known that spiritual work is very good at alleviating this suffering. However, what characterizes psychotherapy, what makes it a particular specialized profession, is that it is a therapy, a treatment of a kind of disorder.
This is how people generally think of psychotherapy, how training institutions view it, how the civic authorities and the law think of it. This definition and others found in the various texts on psychotherapy do not say that the mere use of psychological knowledge or methods is psychotherapy; it is the treatment of mental disorders, which means addressing such disorders intentionally to cure them, that makes such use a therapy. This clearly differentiates psychotherapy from spiritual work. It clearly differentiates it from the Diamond Approach, for it is obvious for everybody who is in the Ridhwan School, as by reading the Information Statement that all students received, that this approach is not for the treatment of mental disorders.
Now this does not mean spiritual work does not have psychotherapeutic elements or consequences in it, just as it does not mean that it does not have physical healing elements and consequences in it. However, having therapeutic elements does not make spiritual work the treatment of mental disorder or problems. The difference between psychotherapy and spirituality, and the importance of this difference, can be understood easily by looking at the development of the field of psychotherapy.
The Emergence of the Field of Psychotherapy
More than two thousand years ago, at the beginning of Western civilization, the Greeks did not differentiate sharply between religion or spirituality, philosophy, the humanities (including psychology), and the natural sciences (including medicine). These differentiations occurred primarily at the Renaissance and became established at the Age of Enlightenment of the modern era. The advent of Christianity and then Islam hastened the differentiation of philosophy from religion. The Arabs began to differentiate the natural sciences from philosophy and religion. Beginning with the Renaissance the modern differentiation between science, religion and philosophy began. This development also consolidated and clearly delineated the differentiation of medicine as a branch of natural science, with a later differentiation of psychiatry from medicine in general. Psychology was part of both religion and philosophy. In religion, psychology was the knowledge and the work with the soul; and in philosophy, psychology was the study of the soul. Psychology differentiated slowly in the modern era as a field of study, independent and separate from religion and philosophy. We must not confuse between psychology and psychotherapy, for psychology is the study of the soul, or science of the mind, while psychotherapy is one possibility of application of this branch of study, frequently combined with knowledge from biology, medicine and psychiatry. Modern psychotherapy never existed the way we know it now in any of the old religions or philosophies. It seems to have emerged at around the time of Freud as a development from biological science and psychiatry, but was mostly a synthesis of the psychiatric branch of medicine with the psychology branch of philosophy. These differentiations meant specializations, which contributed to the development of the various differentiated fields, those of physical science, medicine, psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy. These specializations are a hallmark of Western civilization and its amazing development in the last two centuries, not just in technology, but also in medicine and therapy.
The Relation between Spiritual Work and Psychotherapy
We can see here a connection between psychotherapy on the one hand, and spirituality and religious teachings on the other, because psychotherapy uses psychology, which used to be part of religious and spiritual teachings. The connection is the knowledge of the soul, and how to work with it, which is now termed psychology. Christianity has had a knowledge of the soul—which formed its psychology—and techniques for developing and purifying it. The Sufis have had an extensive knowledge of the soul and how to work with it, as part of their spiritual work. The Kabala has a detailed psychology, about the soul and its functions and difficulties and so on. The Buddhists have the abhidharma, which is a psychology that is necessary as part of the Buddhist path, and Hinduism developed an extensive psychology as the understanding of how consciousness and mind function, and how difficulties arise . Psychology is inherent in spiritual teachings, because dealing with the mind or soul means using psychology. That is why we can find what we will these days call "psychotherapeutic" elements in all the traditional spiritual teachings of mankind. These teachings were one of the original and ancient sources—the other being philosophy—of modern psychology, and as a result form one of the sources of modern psychotherapy based on it. But this does not make these teachings psychotherapy, or similar to it, or inseparable from it. It is true these teachings are the ancient source of psychotherapy, but by its differentiation psychotherapy has developed on its own as a particular field. To equate therapy with spirituality, or to even insist on their inseparability, is like saying medicine is not different or inseparable from spirituality. It is true there is a level where there is a connection, but to use this connection to obscure the difference will be confusing, and will lead to a loss effectiveness for both.
None of the old spiritual teachings have developed a psychotherapy as a separate discipline, because they did not differentiate psychology from spirituality. As a result they did not develop the clinical expertise that modern psychotherapists have for dealing with mental disorder. In other words, the specialization of psychotherapy, dependent on the differentiation of both medicine and psychology from spirituality, has greatly contributed to modern clinical professionalism. Psychotherapy has developed, through its specialization, ways of dealing with mental disorder much more effective than were known by the ancient spiritual teachings. The differentiation and specialization of psychotherapy is very important for its effectiveness. To confuse the two can actually harm the practice of psychotherapy much more than spiritual work. However, the equating of the two will definitely distort the understanding of spiritual work, which is not concerned with mental disorder or psychopathology but with connecting the soul with its spiritual nature.
Spiritual Teaching and Growth Therapy
There are people now that believe this specialization harms psychotherapy more than benefits it, but no one seems to be interested in blurring the boundaries that gives psychotherapy its specialty. This view has developed into humanistic and transpersonal psychology. There are at the present time many attempts to ground psychology more directly in spiritual understanding and metaphysics, and this is bound to affect the practice of some psychotherapists. Some psychotherapists might even ground their therapy in the view and understanding of the Diamond Approach. However, transpersonal therapists are not spiritual teachers, they merely treat mental disorder, or work on alleviating emotional and existential difficulties, within the context of a spiritual orientation. More specifically, transpersonal therapists are still psychotherapists, i.e., professionals in the treatment of mental disorders and dysfunction, except that their practice is conducted with the support of spiritual concepts and attitudes, and sometimes techniques. This can definitely help psychotherapy, because the ground of mind or soul is ultimately spiritual. However, if the therapist works as a spiritual teacher with his clients then he is no more a psychotherapist, and must not be called one, and appending "transpersonal" to "psychotherapist" does not deal with this issue. He stops providing the service that all agencies and most people expects him to provide. In fact, he will be misrepresenting the title of "psychotherapist." It cannot be denied that such a person can do good, but this will depend on the individual therapist.
There exists a group of psychotherapists, in some of the more liberal population centers around the country and the world, who see their orientation not as the treatment of mental disorder but as the helping with personal growth and development. This has largely developed from the late sixties and early seventies, when modalities like gestalt therapy, encounter, body works of various kinds, and various methods aimed at the development of the human personal potential became popular in certain areas, and amongst a certain group of therapists who were not contented with the traditional role of therapy as the treatment of mental disorder. This has become what is called now the growth movement or orientation, sometimes mixed with new age elements. This orientation has been going through a development in the last few years, mostly under the pressure of clients needing more focused psychotherapy, dealing with disruptions due to abuse, trauma, addictions, stress syndromes, and various kinds of ego weaknesses as they manifest in stressful life circumstances. The result is that most of the growth oriented therapists are focusing more on these needs, namely, on treating mental disorder, but with a growth orientation.
This is an important subgroup of therapists, for some students who approach spiritual teachings might benefit more from this kind of therapy, for their needs are psychotherapeutic in nature even though they have a growth orientation. Nevertheless, therapists with this orientation are still a small minority in the field of psychotherapy, constituting thus a fringe group; and furthermore, such therapists are yet not spiritual teachers, and the growth orientation is not that of spiritual teaching. However, because of this orientation, which is sometimes humanistic, and other times transpersonal, it is easy for some to confuse the service of these therapists with spiritual teaching and guidance, because inner growth is closely related to spiritual realization. This is made even more complicated by the fact that some of the growth oriented therapists try to function as spiritual guides under the title of therapists, and some believe that therapy cannot be separated from spiritual work. This is an important debate within the field of psychotherapy, and some of the growth oriented therapists seem to do good spiritual work, but the important point relevant for us here is that we do not refer students to therapy for purely growth purposes, for we see growth as part of spiritual development, and our teachers are specifically trained to guide students towards greater growth and actualization, but as part of the essential unfoldment, and as a result of the integration of the spiritual dimension. The Diamond Approach must not be confused with growth therapies for it is not a therapy, and inner growth for it means something much vaster, and radically different in nature, than envisioned by the various growth therapies.
The Diamond Approach and Psychotherapy
The Diamond Approach, just like other spiritual teachings, is not merely an integration of psychology with spirituality, and it is not a psychology grounded in spirituality. The Diamond Approach is a spiritual teaching that has developed through the Diamond Guidance of Being. This guidance has been very clear throughout the whole of this development that it is a spiritual work and path. The approach integrates elements of modern psychology in its particular inquiry, but also elements of ancient psychologies. The inquiry, which is an exploration of personal experience, is into the nature of the self, where the approach reveals in a very effective way that this nature and essence of the self is the presence of Being. This inquiry continues until Being is revealed as the true nature of all reality, including the totality of the physical universe. This is obviously not the treatment of mental disorders, even though some mental disorders are encountered and addressed sometimes as part of the general unfoldment of the soul, and it is much more than the usual understanding of psychological growth. In fact, the encounter of mental disorders happens in all spiritual paths, depending on how much disorder there is in the spiritual seeker. Some of our teachers may not stick to this approach completely, and might try to deal with some of the mental disorders for their own sake, but this is a deviation from the Diamond Approach, and such teachers need to clarify for themselves what they are doing. Most of the time these deviations are due to issues of merged Diamond Will, that brings up issues of codependency.
Diamond Approach and Psychology
Anyway, the fact that the Diamond Approach benefits from developments in psychological knowledge and methods does not make it a psychotherapy, for it is merely integrating some of the elements of the psychology of the time in its work, just as other spiritual teachings had used the psychologies of their times. Anyway, psychoanalytic concepts and knowledge are so widely absorbed by the culture at large that it is quite understandable that a spiritual teaching arising at this time might do the same. The work of the Diamond Approach is the exploration of the self to arrive at the nature of the self and everything else, which is identical to most traditional spiritual teachings. This is what Buddhism does: it explores the nature of the self until it finds it as emptiness, which then is revealed as the nature of everything. This is the same as Vedanta, where the question "who am I" is central in its investigation of the nature of the self, which is then discovered to be Atman, an expression of Brahman, the true nature of everything. The Sufis follow Mohammed's saying: "Whoso knoweth himself(soul) knoweth his lord." Reading Essence, The Void and The Pearl Beyond Price, we will find that the Diamond Approach follows the same line of inquiry and development. For anyone who reads these books it is obvious they are not about psychotherapy. It is very clear that the books describe spiritual work, and it is very clear how the psychological knowledge is integrated in its method to specifically open the soul to its true nature.
The Diamond Approach integrates some of elements of the ancient psychologies of Christianity, Sufism, Buddhism and Hinduism, plus that of the enneagram. Some examples of these integrations: The idea of the division of the soul into animal soul, human soul and angelic soul, each with its own psychological characteristics, is an integration of Sufi psychology, but adapted in a natural way to the perspective of the Diamond Approach. The Diamond Approach integrates this with the enneagram knowledge in the concept of the soul child, where the qualities of the soul child are determined by the enneagram of idealized aspects. Again this enneagram is itself an integration between enneagram theory, the psychoanalytic concept of idealization and the perspective of aspects in the Diamond Approach. The knowledge of the soul in the Diamond Approach can also be seen as using Hindu psychology, as in the theory that the experiences of the soul are determined by impressions (samskaras) and tendencies (vasanas) that need to be dissolved for liberation to happen. This Hindu psychological idea is integrated with object relations theory, coming up with how these impressions and tendencies are due to ego structures established through ego development. On the other hand, part of our work is the work on the passions and virtues, a segment of the Diamond Approach that integrates the enneagram with Christian psychology, and with the Hindu conception of the soul and the impressions that entrap it.
The work on the holy ideas (Facets of Unity ) in the Diamond Approach integrates the knowledge of the boundless dimensions in this approach, the knowledge of the enneagram, and the psychoanalytic concept of holding environment borrowed from Winnicott and Erikson, but all integrated within a certain epistemology. This did not happen as a result of an intentional and systematic effort at integration; it occurred as a discovery through the Diamond Guidance opening a particular channel of teaching related to the dimension of living daylight. Many more examples can be given to show that the Diamond Approach does not integrate knowledge only from modern psychology, and how this integration is not an intentional effort but a spontaneous discovery occurring within a particular cultural and historical milieu.
The integration of knowledge from depth psychology, like object relations theory and self-psychology, is inseparable from the integration of these ancient psychologies, but all done in a way that specifically opens the soul to its essential nature. This is central in the Diamond Approach. In other words, it is central to the Diamond Approach how psychological concepts and methods help in opening the soul to its essence, and how different this is from using such knowledge for the treatment of mental disorders. More specifically, it is fundamental for the Diamond Approach that we understand the difference between spiritual work and therapy, and especially between the Diamond Approach and psychotherapy. This is discussed in specific detail in some of the books, as when discussing the reports and cases of students.
Differences Between The Diamond Approach and Psychotherapy
It is important to see and fully appreciate that the Diamond Approach is not a psychology or psychotherapy, for one to truly engage it and benefit from it. The need for differentiating the two arises because there are similarities, in the use of some concepts and techniques.
Our era differentiates psychology from spirituality as two separate and independent areas of study, but the traditional spiritual teachings did not do that. The Diamond Approach is similar to traditional spiritual teachings in this respect: it does not see how the experience of the human soul can be divided into a psychological part and a spiritual part. In some way, the separation of the psychological from the spiritual can makes sense only in egoic experience, and it is definitely an expression of it.
We have seen, however, that the division between psychology and spirituality in our era has progressed to the extent that their applications form now two distinct disciplines: spiritual practice and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy stands now on its own as a discipline, while it was an implicit part of the old traditional spiritual teachings. Recognizing this distinction, it is important to understand that although the Diamond Approach does not fundamentally differentiate between psychological and spiritual experience, it remains a spiritual teaching, distinct from psychotherapy. In other words, even though there is bound to be psychological healing in practicing its methodology—just as happens in any kind of spiritual work— its focus and orientation is fundamentally the realization and development of the soul's spiritual nature.
This has many implications. First, no contemporary psychotherapy does or can do the spiritual work of the Diamond Approach or, for that matter, of any spiritual teaching. Psychotherapy, of any kind, is not an alternative to the Diamond Approach. The Diamond Approach is specifically oriented towards the direct work with spiritual realities, essence and being, and its practice is spiritual practice.
We can see the differences between the Diamond Approach and psychotherapy by looking at them from four perspectives: view, orientation, knowledge, and methods.
Differences in view
The view of the Diamond Approach is that reality is the mysterious absolute that manifests in various boundless-infinite dimensions of Being. The absolute manifests all of reality through its inherent creative dynamism, which reflects one of these boundless dimensions, the logos. Being, in its various dimensions, differentiates into the multiplicity of the physical universe, the various aspects of essence and diamond vehicles, and the soul that lives in all the dimensions, whose spiritual qualities are the essential aspects, and who can develop and mature to become transparent to all the aspects and dimensions of being, till it integrates the absolute as its source, nature, identity and home. The dynamism of Being inherently possesses an optimizing intelligence that can, when the soul aligns herself with it, unfold the everyday experience of the soul, revealing the various elements of its potential, mostly the essential aspects and dimensions of being. The alignment with the optimizing intelligence of Being, and the invocation of its guidance, can occur through a certain kind of inquiry. This inquiry integrates psychological knowledge and techniques from ancient psychologies, but mostly from recent developments in depth psychology, with precise knowledge, attitudes and capacities that reflect the various aspects of essence. The view includes a detailed and precise understanding of how this inquiry proceeds and how the psychological knowledge and methods are integrated with spiritual capacities for the free and open-ended opening and unfoldment of the soul, as it moves towards maturation through the integration of the essential aspects and dimensions, in everyday life and experience.
The most dominant view in psychotherapy is quite limited in comparison to the view in the Diamond Approach, or for that matter any spiritual teaching. This is true even for the Jungian and existential therapies, even though these integrate more fundamental dimensions of human experience than the dominant view of psychotherapy. The dominant view in psychotherapy is an extension of the conventional view of reality, that one is a body with a self or mind. That this self or mind can be healthy or normal, or can have disorder and dysfunction. There are many ways of treating these disorders, but psychotherapy uses psychological means for this treatment. Some forms of psychotherapy use inquiry, which makes it look like our work, on the surface and mostly at the beginning of the path. Psychoanalysis uses inquiry, but its view is definitely the extension of the conventional view of reality, which is seen in the Diamond Approach as the view of ego. Jungian therapy uses a more spiritual view of reality, but it is still limited compared to that of the Diamond Approach, and its view of what can happen to the soul is spiritual, but its practice is still considered a therapy, and can be seen from the perspective of the various spiritual teachings to be limited as a spiritual path. Transpersonal therapy uses the various views of spiritual teachings, but to support and hold a therapy, and not specifically to actualize the spiritual experiences that lie at the bases of these views, and its methods are not mostly dependent on the capacities and attitudes of spiritual realization. We can say that transpersonal psychologies, including that of Jung, are closer to the Diamond Approach in terms of view, but they do not rely as heavily and completely on the spiritual view as the Diamond Approach or other spiritual teachings. We must remember that transpersonal psychotherapists, and those with growth orientation, constitute a small minority in the psychotherapeutic community.
The view of the Diamond Approach is important for both student and teacher for, just as in all spiritual teachings, the view is important for the practice, and is not the whim or opinion of an individual. This view or logos of the teaching of the Diamond Approach has partly to do with the place of psychological knowledge and methods in its particular inquiry. It is important for the Ridhwan teacher to have this understanding, not just for the general attitude, but also because the lack of this view will definitely affect the practice at certain parts of the path. This is in addition to developing the various skills and knowledge. This is not a political issue, for the view of how inquiry can integrate psychological understanding in the service of spiritual work forms the very heart of the Diamond Approach.
Differences in Orientation
The orientation of psychotherapy is to address the mental disorders, emotional difficulties, severe stresses of life, and so on, in order to bring about alleviation of suffering due to these difficulties, and most specifically to heal or cure the disorders or emotional disruptions. The goal is a more healthy or normal life, but healthy and normal in the conventional sense, and not in the spiritual sense. Some psychoanalysts, as it was partially with Freud, say that their practice is to bring understanding of the human mind and how it functions, and this way bringing about healing and cure. This is closer to the orientation of the Diamond Approach, but not much, because our approach is not only a matter of understanding what psychoanalysis calls mind, and it is not oriented specifically towards the cure of mental illness or neurosis. Transpersonal therapy is still oriented towards the alleviation and cure of mental and emotional difficulties, but seen within the context of a spiritual view. This adds the aim of developing human and, sometimes, spiritual qualities like compassion and love, and sometimes even the appreciation of transcendence. This is bound to be limited by the view held by the therapist, and the experiential integration of this view, which means that more often than not transpersonal therapy is mostly the treatment of mental disorder or emotional difficulties. Jungian therapy is oriented towards helping its patients complete the pattern of development of their souls, and healing their emotional and mental disturbances through this work. The orientation is still towards the mending of emotional and mental difficulties, but Jungians vary on the degree they emphasize this therapeutic orientation, some of them emphasizing more the development of the soul as a spiritual task.
The Diamond Approach orientation is towards opening the soul to its true spiritual nature, and its development to include this nature in its everyday life. This orientation focuses more on becoming a servant of the ultimate truth, instead of a self-centered benefit or acquisition. The specific orientation is the open and open-ended unfoldment of the soul, to reveal its spiritual potentialities. The orientation is not treatment of mental or emotional difficulties and disorders, but the realization of the truth, for its own sake, and regardless of pleasure and pain. The aim is not a healthy or normal conventional life, not even a healthy life that appreciates transcendence, but the complete and full return of the soul to the absolute, its nature and home. More specifically, the orientation of the Diamond Approach is towards the self-realization of all dimensions of being, and the embodiment of these dimensions in a personal life. This can be seen clearly in Luminous Night's Journey.
The Diamond Approach does not claim or try to do what psychotherapy does. Doing the work of the Diamond Approach may or may not address the psychotherapeutic needs of the student. When it does it does it incidentally and not intentionally. The open-ended inquiry of the approach may reveal some of the psychological difficulties that the student has, and may even bring about healing because of the resulting understanding. The intention of the approach, however, is the understanding of the experience of the student so that this understanding becomes a space that allows the arising of spiritual nature. This arising may heal the psychological problem, but it may not.
The in-depth and long-term application of the work of the Diamond Approach will, in principle, expose all psychological problems that the student has. The spiritual realization, when it progresses, is bound to heal the various psychological wounds that the student has. However, this is true about any genuine spiritual teaching, for all these teachings aim toward the complete harmony of the person's experience. Nevertheless, spiritual work is not an alternative to psychotherapy. Some individuals need psychotherapy because they have pressing psychological needs, that usually cannot wait for the long-term healing influence of spiritual realization. They need psychotherapy to be able to deal with their everyday life without incapacitating pain or inner conflicts. This is one advantage of distinguishing psychotherapy, as a specialization, from spiritual practice. Frequently, the psychotherapeutic problems make it difficult, sometimes even impossible, for the student to engage the spiritual work effectively. This is the reason we refer students sometimes to various forms of therapy, so that they can deal with these pressing needs more effectively in the short-run.
When the view in psychotherapy is that of understanding and inquiry, it is usually oriented towards the understanding of the human being. In the Diamond Approach, this is only part of the orientation. The Diamond Approach is also oriented towards inquiry into and understanding the physical universe, God or cosmic being, and the relation of the two, plus their relation to the human soul. This is because the spiritual view includes the nature of reality, and not only the nature of the human soul.
The difference in orientation is very clearly seen in the contract between the teacher and student in spiritual work, and between therapist and client in psychotherapy. The contract between teacher and student, as in the Diamond Approach, is to engage in a relationship of inquiring into the nature of self and reality, for the sake of the spiritual realization of the student. The nature of the contract is quite open, where the function of the teacher is clearly seen as that of guidance and support on the path of open-ended unfoldment of the soul. The contract is not centered around the emotional difficulties of the student, but rather around her or his spiritual yearnings. In contrast, the contract between a therapist and client is specific and goal oriented. The client comes to the therapist with certain psychological difficulties, and the contract is specifically to deal with these difficulties in order to ameliorate or heal them. In fact, therapists are trained to make a diagnosis and prognosis, and frequently propose a course of treatment, a procedure required by insurance companies. The fact that insurance companies pay for psychotherapy, but definitely not for spiritual work, is a clear indication of how our society differentiates the two kinds of work.
Differences in Knowledge
The kind of knowledge in the Diamond Approach can be seen in the Diamond Mind series of books, and in the teacher training. It is this knowledge that gives it its particular view. This is mostly knowledge of the soul, its properties and faculties, its stages of development, and how these relate to the essential aspects and dimensions. The Diamond Approach contains an immense amount of knowledge—experiential, objective and precise—about the various spiritual realities. This includes knowledge of essence, its aspects and dimensions, how these relate to the soul, and how they are blocked and/or distorted by the presence of specific ego structures and emotional conflicts. It also includes knowledge of the various boundless dimensions of Being, how they relate to essence and soul, how they relate to the body and the physical universe, and how they are blocked and/or distorted by the presence of specific ego attitudes and structures, and the emotional conflicts expressing these attitudes and structures. The Diamond Approach teacher has a whole spiritual teaching behind his work with students, while this is not necessary for a therapist.
The knowledge of ego structures and their development is borrowed from some schools of depth psychology, but integrated in a specific way unique to the Diamond Approach. This integration is not a matter of whole sale adoption of the findings of depth psychology, but is grounded in the knowledge and understanding of the soul and its essential aspects and dimensions, plus some of the psychological wisdom that the various traditional teachings had developed. For instance, the integration of Mahler's separation-individuation process is done with a more expanded and spiritual view of what separation and individuation mean—where separation is ultimately from self-images and not from parents, and where individuation is the realization of the personalization and embodiment of Being—and within the orientation of opening the experience to, and using the wisdom inherent in, the aspects of strength, merging gold, will and the pearl beyond price (The Pearl Beyond Price ). This integration transforms Mahler's theory, sometimes modifying some of its findings, and changes its orientation so that it is not seen as a theory that helps in treating mental difficulties, or in the psychological development of the individual, but as a way of understanding ego structures as a stepping stone for spiritual realization.
The integration of some parts of depth psychology this way into the Diamond Approach leads to many important and precise psychological discoveries that become part of the Diamond Approach. For an example, an emptiness that is revealed when an ego structure dissolves, or present because the structure has not completely developed, is found to be not due to absence of the particular ego structure as depth psychology views it, but as the hole of an aspect of essence.
One important guideline that can help us discriminate what we integrate from psychological theory and why we integrate it is that of diamond issues. The Diamond Approach integrates only the parts that have to do with universal issues, meaning they are true for all egos. The Diamond Approach includes the knowledge of psychology as it relates to ego in general, and not the knowledge that is specific to only some egos, as in psychopathology. This is because of the orientation of this approach, which is spiritual realization. This realization requires the understanding of ego because it is a matter of going beyond the ego. Our approach transcends the ego by going through its various universal characteristics and tendencies, as reflected in the diamond issues.
Psychotherapy integrates some of the knowledge of psychiatry, and sometimes of biological bases of behavior, with that of various psychological theories like that of psychoanalysis, Jung's analytic psychology, behaviorism, cognitive psychology, and many other kinds and forms of theories. The knowledge is partly about the mind and its functioning, like that of repression, defenses, transference, complexes and so on, a knowledge that we also integrate in the Diamond Approach. But a large part of the knowledge used by psychotherapists includes that of psychopathology, mental disorder, neurosis, ego weaknesses and malformations, aberrations of sexual and other kinds of behavior, sometimes psychopathic and criminal behavior, effects of abuse and trauma, addictions of various kinds, severe depressions and anxiety disorders, and so on, plus knowledge and training in how to treat, ameliorate and cure these conditions, all of which is not part of the Diamond Approach or its methodology.
Differences in Methods
The Diamond Approach utilizes many methods, all integrated as a specific practice. It is important in the Diamond Approach that the student learns the various meditations of the approach. This is a series of meditational practices, of increasing depth and subtlety that form a continuum based on the view, orientation and knowledge of the Diamond Approach. Some of the practices are aimed at the development of specific capacities, but they are mostly for the discovery and establishment of essential presence, in its various aspects and dimensions, which is the central component of the open-ended unfodment of the soul. Some of the meditational and spiritual practices are borrowed from ancient teachings, like Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sufism, esoteric Christianity, but some original to the Diamond Approach, all integrated in a way that harmonizes with the view and orientation of the approach.
It is also important for the Diamond approach that the student engages not only in regular practice periods, but in the ongoing practice of self-remembering and presence in the various life situations. This practice also follows a continuum of methods, based on the knowledge and view of the Diamond Approach. We also use visualization techniques, chanting of mantras, and various spiritual practices in our groups. Our methods include talks and lectures, which have three primary functions. The first is that of direct transmission, initiation or impowerment; the second is the dissemination of information and diamond knowledge; and the third is the working with the energy and consciousness of the groups to bring out, deal with and confront many questions and attitudes. These are generally methods not employed by psychotherapy, but mostly by spiritual teachings. Most of them are actually contraindicated for psychotherapy. The parts of our group work that is somewhat similar to therapy groups are those of various group processes and interpersonal exercises. Many of the group processes we do, however, are different from ones known in group therapy, as in the case of lines and clearing.
The differences between the Diamond Approach and psychotherapy are not as obvious in the private teaching sessions as they are in our weekends and retreats. It is important to remember that the Diamond Approach is done within three interrelated formats—large groups as in weekends and retreats, small groups and private sessions—and that it cannot be done completely or most effectively except by participating in all of these formats. It is possible to do it only in one of these formats, but experience shows that this is not as effective. Therefore, even though it is practiced sometimes only within private sessions this does not mean that these sessions can faithfully reflect the teaching of the Diamond Approach, or that they are as sufficient as the combination of all of the three formats, for the practice of this teaching. This is in marked contrast to the practice of psychotherapy, where regular hourly sessions is all that is needed, with the occasional exception of group therapy, but lectures and didactic teaching are generally contraindicated. Furthermore, the private teaching sessions in the Diamond Approach, even when done alone, still rely on the meditational practices and those of self-remembering and presence, which are based on the view, orientation and knowledge of the Diamond Approach. The private sessions also depend on the presence of the teacher, and his or her capacity for direct transmission by merely being present with the student. Much of what happens to students in private teaching sessions is directly related to the presence of the teacher. This is central in the Diamond Approach, but not necessary, required or expected in psychotherapy.
The area where students find the greatest difficulty in seeing the differences is in the practice of inquiry, which is central in our work, and the primary one used in private teaching sessions. First, we need to see that inquiry is not intrinsic to psychotherapy; in fact, many forms of therapy do not employ inquiry. Many therapists employ all kinds of other techniques, like hypnosis, supportive techniques, guided imagery, play, behavior modification techniques, psychodrama, etc. It is mostly the therapists who adhere to psychodynamic theories, like psychoanalysis or analytic psychology, who employ some form of inquiry.
Diamond Inquiry and Therapy
Some become confused about this point because the primary practice of the Diamond Approach is inquiry into experience, which seems to be similar to what some psychotherapists do with their clients. This is a similar confusion to that of believing that one knows what inquiry is when it is introduced in the school. This confusion is mostly understandable because we have absorbed in our inquiry many psychoanalytic concepts and methods, which are familiar to many individuals from doing therapy, plus the fact that these individuals are usually not aware of the psychological concepts that come from ancient psychologies, or ones original to the Diamond Approach. People tend to recognize what they are familiar with much more readily than unfamiliar elements, especially when these are subtler than the ones they are familiar with.
It is true that inquiry in the Diamond Approach has similarities to psychoanalytic psychodynamic inquiry—by the way, the central method of psychoanalysis is free association, and not inquiry—but this is also true about inquiry used by philosophy and the various spiritual systems. It might not be easy to see the fundamental differences between inquiry in psychotherapy and that of the Diamond Approach, but it might help to know that it usually takes teachers in the Diamond Approach years of training to be able to practice its inquiry effectively. Inquiry in the Diamond Approach is actually the same thing as the integration of the operation of the Diamond Guidance, which is a spiritual reality and essential presence not available in normal experience, and requires advanced stages of spiritual maturation for it to occur. The Diamond Guidance is akin to the spirit of truth in Christianity, the angel of revelation in Sufism, transcendental discriminating awareness in Buddhism, and so on. We need to be careful when we hear an individual asserting that he/she knows how to practice inquiry. Maybe it is true, but most likely it is not what we call inquiry in the Diamond Approach. The Big group had to spend three years and a whole retreat, in order to learn what we mean by inquiry, and the public at large might want to read Spacecruiser Inquiry to learn more accurately what we mean.
First, inquiry in our work has to be open and open-ended; it cannot have a goal, or a motive oriented by a goal. It cannot be motivated by the goal of treating mental difficulties, or resolving issues, or even experiencing spiritual realities. Inquiry in psychotherapy is definitely motivated and oriented towards a specific psychological end result. It is not an open or open-ended inquiry, and the fact that openness does occur in some therapy sessions does not make it identical to our work, for in our work this open-ended characteristic is fundamental and central, and has to be present all the time. Our inquiry is based on our view, and its openness reflects our understanding of the ultimate mystery of the absolute. The open-ended characteristic of inquiry in the Diamond Approach, for instance, requires the integration of the diamond space dimension of being, which means freedom from fundamental levels of self-image and identity. Our concept of truth is much wider than the one used by psychotherapy, and reaches depths generally not relevant for the treatment of mental disorders or the alleviation of life stresses. What we mean by knowing is something that therapists and psychologists generally do not understand or even conceptualize, because it is an expression of the blue diamond of the Diamond Guidance, which has to do with the identity between Being and knowing. The attitude of adventure and discovery, the love of truth and joy in the exploration, are things that occur in psychotherapy, but they are fundamental in our work, and express qualities of essence that at some point arise palpably in experience. Furthermore, the arising of these qualities is the central discoveries and learning in the Diamond Approach, and not the insights into and resolution of emotional difficulties, even though these are important and useful, while the reverse is the case in psychotherapy.
The orientation of the Diamond Approach is not towards the treatment and curing of mental or emotional difficulties and disorders, but towards understanding experience in general, by seeing its truth intimately. The work, including the inquiry, is not only of emotional difficulties, but in all aspects of experience not fully understood by the student. Inquiry is frequently into positive and blissful states, sometimes into fundamental philosophical questions and issues, but it is important that there is no prejudice about what kind of experience to focus on. The point is to see the truth for its own sake, and this is not just a convenient attitude that one needs to take in order to solve one's emotional problems. It is a reflection of a spiritual truth, and forms an important element in the view and logos of the Diamond Approach. It is true that most students end up focusing on emotional issues for the first few years of our work, but this is not the prejudice of the approach, rather it is because the beginning experience of most students is of painful and conflictual emotional states, till they reach a greater degree of spiritual openness. Even in traditional spiritual teachings this phenomena appears, but as the preponderance of suffering in experience, and the difficulty in pursing the spiritual practices, for the first few years of the path.
The Diamond Approach also integrates knowledge and methods borrowed from the work of Wilhelm Reich and his followers, and from other forms of body work. The approach integrates these in a specific way, particular to it and reflecting its view and orientation, and not as a whole sale addition of these methods. The orientation is to use breathing and various postures and movements to energize the physical organism for the sake of expansion and deepening of awareness of the body, the specific locus of experience of the soul. This is to assist the practice of inquiry into experience, and not for the usual aims of the various body approaches. The body methods also help, just as in many forms of yoga and tantra, in opening the body and its various subtle centers—the chakras, lataif and other systems of energetic centers— for the arising and circulation of the various subtle energies. The approach to the body in the Diamond Approach occurs within its overall view, which recognizes the body as an expression of a dimension of Being, a dimension that has to do with embodying Being. This view does not see the body as dualistically separate from Being, as it is the case with the various body therapies.
It is important for both students and teachers, in general, but specifically in the Diamond Approach, to recognize and appreciate the similarities and differences between spiritual work and psychotherapy. This is needed for the greater benefit from either. Psychotherapy provides a particular specialized service which needs to be seen accurately, and how it is not a service provided by spiritual work, for this service to be appreciated, and its place understood. Spiritual work needs to be understood as that of addressing the spiritual yearnings of the soul, yearnings that transcend the needs for psychotherapy, that are different from the need for healing and redressing of disruptions. This is necessary for students if they are going to understand the nature of work and commitment to a work school or spiritual teacher.