The crucial role of self-inquiry and self-reliance in all forms of psychic improvement does not mean that therapy cannot be of assistance. There are many reasons why persons who have training and experience relating to personality development and the treatment of mental disorders can be of assistance. One obvious reason is that of having someone who genuinely listens to one's problems, which thereby enables one to express and explore them constructively. The care or love that is expressed by someone willing to listen and thus to partake vicariously in one's sufferings, confusions, doubts or anxieties is often itself therapeutic in various ways. It is a very good and perhaps rare counsellor or therapist who is quite unprejudiced, but sympathetic persons who minimise their own 'pre-judgements' and neutralise their own opinions at the outset can best bring what benefits there are in psychological knowledge to bear on the condition in question.

The trained psycho-therapist, psychiatric consultant or counsellor will usually be more of an adherent to one tradition, theory and method of therapy than another. This is natural enough in that every professional must at the outset begin to systematise and test their experiences according to some system or other. With the more experience and training, the wider the approach tends to become. It is important, then, to be aware that each theory and method has both its special advantages and limitations. The limitations of any approach constitute a large part of the pre-judgements of the practitioner, which are not necessarily prejudicial in the vulgar sense, but which tend to incline his or her perception, observation and opinion one way more than another. The scope of one's psychological vision - itself a function of personal experience - determines what biasses or other weaknesses one's practical therapeutic work will labour under.

Since the range of individual personalities in the world is vast, the potential stages of growth from birth to death are many and the ways in which they may be negotiated vary beyond imagination, many different approaches are called for to meet the diversity of the challenge. Ideas and techniques of therapy that are acceptable or effective with some persons are entirely unsuited to others who are in different stages of growth or are struggling with different kinds of challenge. As pointed out earlier, various psychological theories apply at various stages of evolution of the human personality.

To throw the preceding outline of higher psychology into relief, it helps to comment in general upon certain well-known traditions and therapies, if not in much detail. Since the purpose is not to give any direct account of the therapies, the accent will be on the relative weaknesses of the methods rather than on their strengths and the extent of their rightness or usefulness. However, I must remind that, in my expressed view, where good psychology is concerned, everything depends upon the quality of experience, understanding and character of the person involved, not so much on prescribed psychological and theraupeutical theories and methods. A great method is nothing without a good person to practice it!


Sigmund Freud explained the relative efficacy of faith in matters of health by saying "The true believer is in a high degree protected against the danger of certain neurotic afflictions; by accepting the universal neurosis (religion), he is spared the task of forming a personal neurosis."1 Freud rejected religious beliefs of all kinds and explained the concept of God as resulting from the need of communities in their infancy for a father figure. The one protective, guiding, correcting personalised God of major religions supposedly arose from the need to satisfy this allegedly 'infantile' or even neurotic craving.

It is interesting to note, too, how a rigidly held belief in Freudianism was not only acceptable but de rigeur in the psychoanalytic movement, not least by Freud himself (i.e. the 'founding father-figure'). Jung's famous break with Freud on the question of mystical religious faith - and vice-versa illustrates how Jung was treated like a wayward child and disowned by Freud). The problem arose from Freud's absolutism in assuming that God does not exist. Freud's assumption was final... though no such basic assumption can rationally be proven final. Thus, thinking the rest of the world ignorant and misguided, orthodox psychoanalysts in effect set themselves up as psychically healthier know-alls who would supplant all priests and even perhaps the 'neurotic' saint or holy person. Other reasons why Freud's hypothesis was mistaken about religion include the fact that, to take Christianity as one example, religious doctrine requires even more realism, compassion, self-examination, universality of outlook and moral improvement of a person than even the strictest psycho-analyst would. Such an 'illusion' could hardly amount to a neurotic satisfaction. Despite all the many aberrations of religions, their true essence all remain the same and basically accord with the perennial philosophy. This is true of the essential requirements of Brahminism, Jainism, Buddhism, Judeaism, Islam and other faiths.

Freud's social importance: The historical achievement of Freud lay not least in his counteracting to some extent the ubiquitous materialistic mechanism of the 19th Century by reintroducing into serious debate questions concerning the psyche and human motivation in the attempt to relieve psychic sufferings. This was the beginnings of a tradition often now called 'humanistic' psychology. Yet the only way this could seemingly then be legitimised was by adopting physicalistic terminology and causal concepts, though the practice of psychoanalysis itself was much more personal and voluntaristic than the current medical approach. The inner workings of the psyche - the patient's own subjective experiences - were given importance again after a long epoch where this had been officially neglected in Western medicine. Taking its starting point from the subjective experiences of patients, Freud's work was virtually 'disqualified' by psychological scientists, who regarded the psychoanalytic theory and method as very largely unverifiable, which is largely still held to be so by them. Yet this very positive aspect of Freud's work amounted to taking patients seriously, listening to what they said about how they felt and what they thought. This was a major departure in the treatment of madness, even though several of the theses that Freud developed proved to be one-sided, limited or not generally true.

Working in such a restrictive climate, psychoanalysis was in a defensive position. For example, the truth about child incest - that it was not fantasy but had actually occurred in the childhood of certain of his patients - was systematically concealed by Freud, as his private correspondence with his daughter Anna Freud has subsequently revealed. This has finally proven that the very basis of psychoanalytic theory - such as the Oedipus conflict - rests at least partly on a false footing. This surely helps explain why empirical studies have never been able satisfactorily to confirm many of the basic assertions of psychoanalysis.

Freud and infantile sexuality: Freud drew attention to the fact that many children are not devoid of some kind of sexual feeling, which was almost universally shocking even to mention at that time, his insistence on its importance and fundamental role in determining the future personality seems quite ridiculous on the basis of what has since been observed (by others than most Freudians) and what otherwise is known today.

The Oedipus Conflict: In Freud's view, a son supposedly wishes to receive the full attention of the father and be like him, taking over his role and thus requiring the full attention of the mother too. Freud sees the son as actually wishing to be rid of the father, to 'kill' him. The same supposedly then applied mutatis mutandis to a daughter in relation to her mother. This conflict situation is seen as unavoidable, the various solutions being types of compromise.

The primitive tragedy of strife between King Agamemnon and Clymenestra, their son Oedipus and daughter Electra, was used by Freud as a psychic model of latent feelings and complexes in families in general This further exemplifies how psychoanalytic theory is basically pessimistic about the natural development of a balanced psyche, seeing as it does the attainment of emotional balance or a 'stable ego' as highly problematical due to the alleged necessity of emotional-identity conflicts in all children.2 This starting point, though modified or even rejected by some subsequent psychoanalysts, has tended strongly to make psychoanalysts excessively past-oriented in theory and practice and also much too narrowly focused upon sexuality, in relation to which other human motivations are seen as entirely secondary and still as being influenced by sexual motives, whether conscious or subliminal.

The Oedipus complex as described by Freud does not fit with the Oedipus 'myth' in Euripides' drama 'Oedipus the King'. This illustrates the danger of reasoning from analogy. The killing of the king was a contractual, political event, not a passionate sacrifice of the father. Oedipus did not know that it was his mother he was marrying, either. These 'details' show the falsity of the basic assumption of the Freudian appeal to the analogy and its symbolism. The tricky phantasmal interpreter, 'the unconscious mind', had to be invoked to 'prove' that the situation was archetypal, but distorted by unconscious repression so as to cloak the horrid truth from the eyes of the civilised consciousness.

It is another matter that the Oedipus complex evidently does not 'fit' elsewhere either, except possibly in some sense in extreme and unusual cases. How, then, can three or more generation of psychoanalysts have clung to this mythical 'myth'? We know that the Oedipus complex was regarded virtually as the kingpin (sic) of Freud's psychonanalysis, one of the most important early hypotheses that made Freud famous. It underpins the evolving theory of 'libido' and the death wish, it is supposed to illustrate the earliest functioning of these and therefore to lie at the root of the (male) human unconscious and so on. For such reasons, a rejection of it amounted to a rejection of psychoanalysis in its entirety... and this was very strongly held and felt to be so in authorised psychonanalytic associations, as it is even today in some.

The fact that orthodox psychoanalysis did not reject it as the absurdity it is surely due to the theory of psychoanalysis itself... involving an increasingly involved and inventive interpretation of symbols, creative comparisons of dream and interpreted reality. The juggling of a confusing mass of interpretative evidence with the use of ill-defined sub-ideas and the all over-riding importance given to symbols in all psychic life - the meaning and practical relevance of which were often vague indeed, laid the ground for manipulation of facts in psychoanalysis.

This situation affected most psychoanalytic thought and continued to the extent that the Oedipal and similar theories were upheld and Freudian orthodoxy was not rejected. The widespread popularity of Freud among writers, artists and what have you besides, has unfortunately led to the dissemination of a dark form of vision that affects us regularly through such media as books, theatre, film and TV Many persons have virtually lived their lives through the looking-glass of psychoanalysis and their contribution to the modern world-vision has yet to be cleansed. For all its belief in the 'pleasure principle', Freudianism is more or less an extreme contradiction of the Polyanna principle. Neither of these extremes of viewpoint is healthy. Neither of them contribute to illumination. The psychoanalytic viewpoint is convoluted and self-denigrating and itself fulfils its own pessimism in the way it perceives and defines 'reality'. The Polyanna principle or head-in-the-sand optimism of 'nothing but positive thinking', has arisen in the pendulum swing away from the pessimism of Freud and Darwin and often goes to the other extreme in certain forms of pseudo-therapy and in much so-called New Age healing.

The psychoanalytic method: Freud initially introduced a large measure of common sense into the treatment of disturbed and deranged persons. Regarded in relation to established medical thinking and the primitive European ideas on psychology of the time, it was a breakthrough. The famous method (of free association) is just to allow the sufferer to get in touch with the root of their own problems through talking freely, with the occasional aid of the analysts' interpretation of dreams (sometimes also hypnosis to help the process of free association of thoughts). This meant to accept the person as a person, not merely a sick organism, and to tolerate the person's irrational outbreaks and nonetheless treat them with love and respect in the attempt to help them understand the 'historical' causes of the own emotions, phobias or disturbing symptoms of a psycho-physical nature. Understanding the case was seen as instrumental towards clearing up the 'symptoms' and avoiding repetitions etc. This is essentially the method of psychoanalysis and of other subsequent variants of analytic therapy. Much more can be said - and has been - of the many types of reaction and circumstance, personality disorders and ways of interpreting the sufferer's symptoms... but despite the various refinements of which much is made by the professional, the above is what psychoanalysis really amounts to as a method.

The theory that supports it can easily be distorted, exaggerated, perverted and blown up into a confused and confusing mass of ideas, but then all its valuable essence evaporates. Unfortunately, the past-orientation of this method often tends to fixate the mind on events that cannot be altered rather than stimulate to new experiences that help the person transcend their limits and so generate a new basis for self-esteem and happiness.

Freud was the first chief proponent in psychology of the concept of 'the unconscious', which he developed in various ways based upon clinical experience with patients. Of the various 'mechanisms' he attributed to it's influence, some are still widely regarded as having a real basis in human behaviour. For example, the educative phenomenon of 'unconscious slips' is well-known and is widespread in psycho-analytic and much other subsequent literature. The so-called 'unconscious will' of Freudianism, which is repressed will, (i.e. the will's action is delayed and distorted by sub-conscious hindrances) doubtless occurs too, but it probably only 'motivates' or interferes with relatively extremely few of any persons' actions. This is most likely a form of 'delayed action' and there may thus be no different in principle between this and moving an arm as a result of willing it, for the body is only the physical medium of a chosen action. The difference is only the time-delay factor involved. By contrast, an arm which moves by a reflex action is a clear case of physical cause-effect.

Freudian sexuality and pessimism: Due not least to its dominant role in the study of individual development, Freudian theory has achieved much influence, both direct and indirect, on the direction of psychological interest and research. The bias in much psychology towards psychoanalytical developmental theory - or to isolated elements of it - and especially in the overriding importance given to sexuality and the very excessive reliance on the belief in repression of trauma, must be neutralised through the wide-ranging holistic approach that gives no predominance to any one or two aspects of life.

A wide variety of reports in the literature today indicates that the theory of unconscious sexually-influenced motivation has been over-emphasised in general psychology and it originally received excessive publicity for largely extraneous historical social reasons. Universality was prematurely claimed for most of Freud's ideas about sexual complexes which arose from pathological case studies in the sexually-repressive late Victorian bourgeoise environment.


While psychoanalysis initiated the benefits of the humanistic approach, it also set some very unfortunate trends in psychological thinking, which spilled over into many other professions: a standardisation of human personality according to a narrow set of assumptions and rules for their application. Unfortunately, Freud and his various followers established what amounts to a subtle, and hence less easily exposed, kind of character typology through the various sub-theories of psychoanalysis (i.e. the Oedipus and Electra conflicts, the dream-work symbolising process, the theses of projection, transference, repression, acting-out, sublimation and so on).

The methods of psychoanalysis were vaguely formulated and could therefore be interpreted in manifold ways and bent according to need. Such as when a particular case was evidently not an instance of Freud's generalisations and thus 'resisted' the process of analysis - 'resistance' both in theory and in practice, for patients often needed much persuasion. The breaking-down of a patient's resistance became a key to analytic progress, especially in the work of Wilhelm Reich.3 This is done not least by systematically working on the analysand's inconsistencies, doubts, insecurities and anxieties, thus often in effect undermining their confidence and self esteem and deranging their normal judgement. Though 'resistance analysis' is intended only as a phase of treatment, it often has the effect simply of converting the patient to belief in the analyst's 'classical' interpretations of their behaviour. Thus, psychoanalysis can, unless in the hands of a highly developed person, lead to a fairly rigid system of psychologisations, which serve only as explanations to the patient, not as transformations.

Psycho-analytic ideologies may satisfy the minds of those who still identify selfhood either wholly or mainly with the fulfilment of all kinds of bodily desire. Since the mind consists in a very subtle form of matter, this includes those who pursue the predilections of the mind and all intellectual diversions. This level of 'lower' psychological theory and the interests which it legitimises do not lead to self-realisation, because the bodily or empirical self is not the source of consciousness, only its instrument.

Dr. Paul Brunton has expressed what is perhaps the major shortcoming of psychoanalysis most pithily as follows:- "The psychoanalysts work busily on the ego all the time, thus keeping the poor patient still imprisoned in it. But a reference to the Overself might help him really to get rid of some complexes." "The mistake of the analysts is to treat lightly what ought to be taken seriously, to regard as a parental fixation or sex repression what is really the deep spiritual malady of our times - emptiness of soul." and "Psychoanalysis is primarily a search for what is wrong with man; philosophic analysis is a search for what is right with him. Psychoanalysis seeks to correct the false self; philosophy to reveal the true one that is underneath it. Psychoanalysis probes the dead past of childhood; philosophy the living present of maturity." The Notebooks of Paul Brunton - Perspectives (Posthumous 'New York. 1987), p. 130.


There are a wide range of techniques with psychotherapeutic aims which deal with or make use of symbols in the healing process. The tradition began with Freud's famous work, as recounted in the seminal book The Interpretation of Dreams(1900). The symbols involved may be provided not only by dreams but also by reveries or from a person's self-expression in conversation, drawing, modelling, drama, music and so forth. In other cases the symbols may be provided by a group leader as part of a specific projective programme, the aim being anything from self-discovery - as in controlled regression and 'rebirthing'- to self-transformation through imagination, meditation and prayer.

Much has been said and written both for and against most of the many forms of therapy. The 'classical' psychoanalytical technique and those departing from this such as Wilhelm Reich, Melanie Klein and C.G. Jung all employ the interpretation of symbols, particularly those that arise in dreams. In more recent years a wide range of theories or techniques using symbolic material have become widespread, such as Gestalt therapy and many similar variants of 'healing' therapy from the sensible to the imaginative and on to the bizarre and the near lunatic.

How the great plethora of hypotheses, methods and techniques is to be sorted and unified as to such crucial criteria as validity, applicability, reliability and safety is no small task for the future, yet the challenge is to integrate these within an overall paradigm - both for 'epistemological' and 'therapeutic practical' reasons. It cannot be accomplished to any purpose without a dynamic model, one which has both transformational, transpersonal and transcendental perspectives with observable practical and experiential fruits for the spectrum of life from the individual to the universal. It appears indeed that the chief weakness of almost all modern psychological theories is their lack of a sufficiently holistic view of man and mankind, particularly one which incorporates and gives the proper first place to the major values that have always in some form or other been inherent in the strivings of the human psyche, whatever the culture or era.

Dreams in psychotherapy: There are many theories concerning dreams, their interpretation and relation to life, each of which doubtless contain insights applicable to various psychic conditions, emotional problems, stages of growth and times of life. The possibilities offered by dreams are very many and they can be a vehicle of insight into the workings of the human mind and especially as regards creativity. Since Freud, at least, it has been well-known how dreams can serve symbolic functions for the psyche, bringing into consciousness in a variety of subtle and strange ways diverse impulses, emotions and notions that have been excluded from the individual's awareness for any number and kind of reasons.

The Freudian theory that all dreams express (at least some elements of) wish-fulfilments has occasional validity but any view based on sufficient experience will regard this as far too narrow an idea to apply to all or even most dreams. It can be the more relevant at certain phases in psychic growth, especially where there is frustration with the environment or oneself. It is almost becoming a truism nowadays how interpretations on the Freudian wish-fulfilment theory often (though not always!) go to undue lengths to twist and turn dream materials into some sort of pseudo-meaning. Consequently there has grown up a range of other schools of psychological interpretation, each with their relative usefulness and application in specific circumstances.

Important functions that dreams can fulfil include emotional and mental regeneration. Deep sleep and dreams often renew ones psychic energy just as much as physical energy. One way in which anyone can observe that dreams and sleep function is simply to redirect or interrupt the thoughts, interests and moods of the previous day. We often awake feeling something fresh, something different to the previous evening and our thoughts mostly take off from a new starting point. In this way, dreams can 'clear out' unwanted thoughts or psychic energies. They may also clear up the psyche through dealing directly with troublesome ideas or frustrations, in this way releasing the energy through a dream experience that was driving them in waking life. Some dreams alter moods through unusual images and feelings. Dream events can point a way to the conscious mind to deal with certain inner or outer experiences or can 'warn' the psyche, sometimes even being directly precognitive warnings of error or even disaster ahead. There is increasing evidence that the mind or brain during dreaming helps deal with materials from waking experience in useful ways, working somehow to sort or organise in unseen ways connection between elements of recent waking experience and stored memories, especially imagery. Dreams may also indicate positive eventualities open to the individual and may provide an arena for 'trying out' in phantasy potential thoughts, feelings and actions in relationships. Thus they may provide imaginative materials for living, quite apart from artistic stimulation. Such 'dry-runs' into possible latent experiences can enable the person to sense the emotional consequences of allowing certain impulses and inherent tendencies to surface, testing certain roles on an inner level before eventual decisions in waking life..

Through time, dreams can also develop in interaction with thought and imagination to become more and more detailed, vivid and unusual in meaning. A continuity of dream events can even occur and run through dreams over long periods of time, even many years. One example of this is the manner in which in various types of psycho-analytic therapy, dreams gradually tend to conform more or less to the theories that underlie the work, often very strikingly so. Dreams even occur that are 'fakes' of some earnestly desired result, especially while in psychoanalytic or other dream-oriented therapy, which is perhaps a sophisticated instance of wish-fulfilment.

Dreams can also challenge one's ego by bringing up unaccustomed feelings and sensations. In reversing such roles as victim and perpetrator, parent and child, lover and hater, the inner I expresses itself to the outer man or ego-oriented mind of the individual. Such dreams advance spiritual growth or regenerate it when too much ignored.

Dreams also definitely do occur, though it appears to happen very seldom, wherein there are direct interactions with other persons in their dreams, nearly as if it were in the waking state. This has occurred only where strong, unexpressed emotions were involved, and often in connection with the death of close relatives or friends.

Further, there is some evidence to suggest that certain persons may 'enter' the dreams of others. One cannot exclude the possibility of dream interference from persons with suspect motives. However, dreams in which others appear to 'invade' may occur due to having concentated on that person often with strong positive or negative feelings.


Though influenced decisively by Freud's ground-breaking work, as were all his contemporaries, Alfred Adler diverged from Freud on the sexual-bias of psychoanalytic theory and ended his mutual co-operation with Freud in 1912.

Adler developed a psychological view of the meaning of life, which he held not to be a merely subjective question, but one tied to contribution, interest in others and co-operation. Thus, he held, "individual psychology has the same aim as religion, but in a different way". Adler sees psychology as a substitute for religion, which he rejects. Still, his view of the human being's development accords well in many other basic respects with the Vedantic view of self-transformation, as outlined here. Adler's individual psychology considers "the psyche itself, the unified mind..." and never considers or treats a symptom in isolation from "the whole style of life, in the way the mind has interpreted its experiences, in the meaning it has given to life, and in the actions in which it has answered the impressions received from the body and the environment."

Adler became most widely known for his emphasis on the individual's struggle for power4 which - though valuable as a counterbalance to much of Freud's one-sidedness in seeing the sex-instinct (libido) as the sole drive of human behaviour, he doubtless also over-emphasised, instead making power the expression of all human strivings and creativity. The 'will to power' he explained as rooted in the need for survival and security. He also regarded this will as virtually insatiable, which again implies an overall pessimistic view of humanity. Feelings of superiority and inferiority came to play a large part in his view of the process of development and especially of the hindrances to it in the form of neuroses and mental illness. This basic drive comes to expression in the formation of an ego, the attempt to dominate parents, siblings and the physical and social environments in general. When frustrated, the expansive desire for ego-enhancement and fulfilment deals with the resultant sense of inferiority by developing instead a compensatory personality superstructure. This process of a 'warped personality' can begin very early in life and it forms a 'life-plan' (virtually the same as what Sartre called 'existential project') to compensate for the loss of mastery and obtain a sense of security (even though it is bogus).

Though we are self-determined by the meaning we give to our own experience, and thus choose our own future fates, the inferiority complex causes its sufferer to be unconscious of its bogus nature. Otherwise, neurotic symptoms which function to protect this illusion would fall away. In this also lies the hope of transformation and cure.

Adler's view of psychic illness is that it always serves some purpose, the discovery of which itself is the key to removal of the illness. This view, while apparently in accordance with the doctrine of karma, tends to overlook the fact that karma can be accumulated in and persist from earlier lifetimes so that the cure of karmic illness may lie only in the suffering of it and what can be learned through that.

The Adlerian key to child-upbringing is training in co-operation, which cannot so easily be learned later on. There are severe disorders due to childhood experiences, which generally fall under three main types according to Adler:-

1) traumas that often cause feelings of self-pity. However, he considers that we are self-determined and hence make of traumas what we will, they are not insurmountable injuries.

2) 'spoilt' or pampered children, whom he regards as "the most dangerous class in our community. Some of them may make great protestations of good will; they may even become very 'lovable' in order to secure an opportunity to tyrannise, but they are on strike against co-operation."

3) neglected children, who feel the cold and fail to see how one can win affection and esteem by useful acts for others. They become suspicious persons who lack self-trust.


Jung's theory of psyche started from the 'sexualism' of Freud and the limited theory of the 'unconscious' held by Freud and variously embodied in psychoanalytic therapy, all of which Jung found relevant but too limiting, tending as it does to exclude the possibility of examining other physic phenomena in their own right.

Phenomena that are often now still regarded as outside psychology proper, and are therefore termed 'para-psychological' phenomena, were part of Jung's concern. More important, however, was the religious impulse, the whole tradition of soul and spirit from all world cultures that had been excluded from 'serious' thought by the prevailing scientistic materialism. The major archetype in Jung's view is indeed the Self, which corresponds in many respects to what here is termed the Overself.

Most important was Jung's experience that we have a deep need for religious or spiritual faith, which - if ignored or suppressed - causes serious psychic disturbances in many people after middle age. However, Jung was clearly himself not a believer in Christ and he regarded Christianity as a 'myth'. His view was that the 'Christ figure' is not based on a historical person, and religion in general is mainly a symbolic vehicle - a cultural fund of archetypal materials - which helped express the spiritual strivings that he saw virtually as a 'biological necessity'. It has been held that Jung attempted, through the medium of psychology and psychiatric therapy, to 're-invent religion'.5 Jung himself makes it quite clear that the loss of religious experience and the orientation of the meaningfulness of life and development that religious belief provides was what his theories tried to re-instate in their own way. His childhood loss of faith in his clerical fathers' Protestantism was what he sought to rediscover in psychological terms through interpreting historical sources from all forms of dissenting beliefs. His own and subsequently his patients' experiences, especially in dreams, visions and 'psychic phenomena', provided an empirical material in which he claimed to discover archetypes of unconscious psychic motivation.

To this one is tempted to remark that religion proper obviously cannot be 'invented' or even be coherently reconstructed in a historical, scientific manner from the pathology of individuals in a society which has very largely lost touch in theory and practice with religion proper; the wisdom of the ages. This fact probably accounts more than any other for the garbled symbolism with its unending historical-psychological complexity and resultant theoretical vagueness when any clear and general directives for behaviour are sought in it. Jung's writings appeal to historically-learned persons and those with intellectual aspirations because of its sheer historical detail and its abstruseness. The preoccupation with symbolism further attracts those with artistic interests or ambitions. This is borne out by considering the fashionable cultural environments where Jungian thought and therapy are largely adopted.

Jung's approach to character types started from his own distinction between 'introvert' (or 'inward-looking') and 'extravert' (or 'outwardly-expressive'). This he combined with the hypothesis that each individual is more influenced by - or dependent upon- one or other of the four functions: 'sensing', 'feeling' 'thinking' and 'intuiting'. By combining these four with the preceding two, eight types result. This typology is a tool that stimulates understanding of oneself and others and, though it still shares the limitations typical to all typologies, it at the same time serves to outline an ideal for personal psychic-spiritual development. The process called 'individuation' by Jung, which seldom begins before middle-age, is one in which the functions that predominated in the character are gradually extended to include others of the eight 'types'. This leads to the realisation of Selfhood, in Jung's terminology. In this it has clear parallels to Vedanta.6


Continuing the review of therapies here, the purpose is to throw the standpoint of the higher psychology into stronger contrast by comparison with differing approaches. The many-sided approach to all questions of personality disorder and development adopted here means that the idea of unconscious trauma and regressive techniques, while afforded some role, are reduced to a less significant role in therapeutic self-transformation than would satisfy their proponents. Traumas, it is held, are very much more likely to be unrepressable or unforgettable to their victims than 'repressible'. This flies in the face of ideas and techniques that are still very widely accepted in major areas of psychology, psychotherapy and psychiatry. Be that as it may, those very techniques themselves often fly in the face of experience and reason, as is becoming more widely recognised by new professionals at long last.

Controlled exposure therapy is a form of regressive technique whereby known traumatic past experiences which have led to so-called 'post-traumatic stress disorder' (eg. experiences in concentration camp, torture, wartime experiences, hi-jackings, murder scenes, rapes etc.) are 're-lived' by a cautious, graded approach to the experiences. This is claimed to be beneficial in many cases, around 40% of those seeking such aid. This evidently is an exception to the advice to forget the past. Those who suffer from the after effects of trauma are most likely precisely those who cannot 'consciously' forget the past sufficiently to be free of its disturbing influence. Those who have been victims and those who have been perpetrators can obviously both suffer. The perpetrator's guilt feelings from their own involvement needs to be atoned for somehow before the debt can be said to be paid (note that 'guilt' comes from the same root as the Nordic/Germanic gjeld'or 'Gelt' meaning 'debt').

Many or even most modern psychological therapeutic theories and techniques rely heavily on reawakening the past combined with various forms of 'analysis' of the person's present subconscious and conscious behaviour as being past-determined. These work both at the bodily level (eg. muscular and other physical conditions) and at the emotional-mental levels. The variety of techniques is becoming very extensive, such that very few persons if any have an overview of the full applications and effectiveness of them all. Suffice to say that, only in so far as such past-oriented techniques remain firmly anchored in the individual's present essential needs and take at least some account of the broader life-fulfilling requirements of spiritual development, will their long-term effect be likely to be beneficial.

Rebirthing therapies aim at regressing the consciousness of a person back to supposed pre-birth experience and beyond, not least supposedly to recapture buried memories of previous lives in which various experiences have had a traumatising effect, such as in causing unusual obsessions, fears, phobias etc. Some regressions are attempted through an extension of psychoanalytic techniques, some through auto-suggestion and hypnosis. These practices inhabit the grey area between the wish fulfilments of sheer fantasy and the possible genuine 'cause' of a consequence in this life.

Such techniques, dealing as they do with much more obscure circumstances and matters almost entirely beyond controlled or even independent observation, certainly do not produce any more reliable types of evidence of their effectiveness than do psychoanalytic therapies. This means that the controllability in any scientific sense generally is extremely low. The holistic method allows of a more appropriate form of examination (both introspective and extraspective) of such 'hypotheses', yet still cannot provide definitive support for such therapies without systematic studies that work with follow-up investigations and various forms of 'control groups' etc. In particular, the possible 'psychological casualties' of such treatments (such as by untrained individuals) requires examination. If traumas that are both deep and extreme (such as supposedly re-liveable death traumas at the conclusion of previous lives), the risk for those not properly prepared, or especially for the emotionally and psychically unstable person or for the 'borderline psychotic', can be very considerable. Serious shock and derangements might occur after any such session that is 'successful'. The chances of real success in the sense of re-experience of actual events from past lives are probably very low indeed in most persons. This comes of the observable fact that the mind necessarily eventually forgets events that otherwise would flood it with practically infinite information. The reason for forgetting the millions of trivia of even a few months back, let alone those of past lives, is that they no longer bear any relevance or importance whatever. Likewise, there is no good reason when incarnate in the present body, to remember the actual experiences of any past life... or of any number of such. There are so many conceivable good reasons for 'starting afresh' that the idea of entering life with complete recall of all past lives is virtually unthinkable and crippling. Clearing out old files from an office or useless memorabilia from a dusty loft eventually becomes a sheer necessity.

While the sort of results that such varied forms of 'guided meditation', suggestion and hypnosis have hardly been studied systematically, the claims made are sometimes interesting enough to warrant this. Claims that individuals 'relive' previous births - all too often held by the claimants to be genuine experiences of the status of 'dead certainties' - sic, often offend reason and are, at any rate, almost entirely uncontrollable.


Since the 1960's, an increasing number of therapies have arisen which may be grouped under the idea of self-development that centre interest mainly on the ego. The theories and techniques involved have in common that they seek to give their clients a firmer sense of self. This can mean a sense of autonomy, a greater ability to develop and express oneself and to set up the subjective conditions necessary for each individual's self-fulfilment (ego-growth). The techniques employed can combine all degrees of analysis of self with creative, suggestive and imaginative investigation of the ego and its possibilities.

Well-known and widespread examples of such techniques are encounter therapy, Perles' Gestalt therapy, various expressive or art therapies, and neuro-linguistic programming... to name some. The above methods are mostly practised privately and are financed by private fees. Hence the almost universal use of the word 'client' rather than 'patient', and the orientation towards serving the needs and wants of individuals, rather than the needs or concerns of family, environment and society, which are of secondary priority in individual self-centered therapies.

Thus far, these approaches centre interest on the individual self and try to help people 'seek, find and be themselves'. To explain this by contrast, one might perhaps speak of 'other-centered approaches', where people learn to be less concerned about themselves as egos but about the spiritual self, selflessness and concern for others gradually supplants self-centeredness (i.e egoism and/or narcissism). This approach is given prominence of place in such 'higher' therapies as psycho-synthesis and transpersonal psychotherapy.

An increasingly common assumption of many new therapists with a humanistic outlook, one that is not always stated unequivocally, is that all persons' intentions are basically good, few people if any actually hate or do ill wilfully, for such behaviour is the causal result of poor backgrounds, ignorance, lack of social skill etc. Such optimistic humanism mixes up the ego and the spiritual self. What is good for the ego need not at all be good for the spiritual self. Egoism takes account only of the individual, the spiritual self is universalistic and selflessly-oriented. When applied willy-nilly both to ego and self, humanistic thinking easily becomes an effort to avoid seeing behaviour realistically and leads to a peculiar type of moral licence for selfishness, which in fact works against the greater long-term interest of the individual towards personal freedom.

In other words, one cannot deny that there are persons who do sometimes have bad and even evil intentions of an egoistic or simply ignorant sort... whether or not they perceive them as satisfying and justify them as good. Another question is how one should deal with self-centered persons who are steeped in criminal behaviour. A humanistic approach in aiming to aid them in self-transformation may sometimes be more fruitful than relying automatically on discipline or falling back too soon on suppressive authoritarian measures.

The weakness of the general humanitarian approach is that it invariably fails to make a clear enough distinction between good intentions towards oneself and towards others. To be 'self-seeking' means to ride rough shod over those in one's way, to 'seek oneself' means to rise above personal and partisan interests to discover the true nature of being human in oneself. To wish for and try to obtain a good for oneself is distinctly different from wishing for and trying to provide some good for others. In short, it is essential to distinguish self-seeking from selflessness. Good intentions as to one's own satisfaction and success - which may even include that of one's family too - are not necessarily morally good. They can be very narcissistic. If, in practice, such 'goodness' amounts to egoism and selfishness and stands in contrast to public spiritedness, service of others, concern for society and the environment... it becomes bad instead. This is a central insight in Vedanta... that all are one, all persons and beings are intimately inter-related such that the good of all is best for each one, and what is truly the good for a person is that which does not go against the common good. Intentions must always be judged against this standard, and actual behaviour likewise.

This is not to say that the individual person who seeks to forward his or her own interests is necessarily not good. People must each look to their own interests in so far as not doing so would make them a burden on others or on society. This is a first requirement and is - or should be - the aim of all therapies. It is when the person's needs are uncontrolled or excessive or stand in unjust conflict with those of others that self-discipline must be insisted upon and psychologists must stand firmly against their fulfilment. Two forms of therapy which tend to lack this controlling influence are now discussed.

Two modern therapies: In order to show how the present viewpoint can be applied fairly specifically in evaluating the assumptions and ideals other traditions, two examples are chosen.

Gestalt Therapy: The emphasis on self-fulfilment through discovering and being oneself in Gestalt therapy places it firmly among methods designed for persons who wish to centre interest on and develop themselves. As such, it may be successful in helping individuals resolve to a certain extent such problems as self-denigration, love-deprivation, depression, anxiety, a sense of isolation, alienation, inferiority, ego-weakness and passivity. Because of the tendency towards a laissez-faire approach that underlies most of its thinking, combined with an accent on the (paying) client's self-satisfaction, it seems much less likely to be effective in the transformation of persons with overpowering or manipulative egos, superiority complexes, manic, megalomaniacal, psychopathic or sociopathic tendencies, long-term problems of marriage conflict and conflicts rooted in social paranoia. If the basic ideology is carried too far and sustained too long, this may even be a dangerous support of long-term and subtly self-destructive behaviour in the very persons it would help to overcome inhibitions and complexes that hinder normal life.7

Neuro-linguistic Programming: The chief positive aspect of the approach - the corrective contribution to psychological therapeutic thinking - lie in its refusal to fixate mental derangement and emotional disturbance in terms of analysable past events and its consequent emphasis on acceptance of personality differences and the discovery of personal potentials and skills to overcome experienced problems. Neuro-linguistic programming (Nlp.) attempts problem-solving through recognition of the nature or structure of a persons' models of reality and self, locating and pointing out repetitive patterns in perception, interpretation and inter-personal relationship syndromes ('loops'), combined with a kind of Socratic questioning that hints at, or often rhetorically implies, positive and possibly fruitful changes of perception and evaluation to the questioned person. This is perhaps not really anything new in itself, but it shows up weaknesses in other previously-established models of psychological thought and therapeutic behaviour. The approach has established itself widely also through its jargon vocabulary, which names (or unfortunately superfluously renames) certain commonly-observable patterns of perception, experience, thought and behaviour.

Nlp presents itself as a skill, or set of skills, that apparently cannot be conveyed explicitly except through the medium of interaction. Knowledge of the method is less available through books and, apart from participation in workshops, is best obtained through the medium of live recordings from workshops. The lack of a fully explicit theoretical framework in Nlp is reflected in the general non-acceptance of common world-models or understanding, illustrated in the jargon used to describe the partial agreement between a person's approaches as 'overlapping models'. There is consequently an individualistic anarchic tendency that also shows up in its conceptual framework, which seems mostly to rely on the focus provided by slogans and catchwords.

The aspects of Nlp that limit its value as an instrument of long-term positive personal transformation surely arise from the obsessive belief in personal value-neutrality and the underlying assumption of equality of all viewpoints (called 'models of the world' etc.). They are supposed to be valid for a person as long as they exhibit an elusive quality called 'quality', which is thought only to be demonstrable, not a term than can be meaningfully defined. The approach is clearly inspired by the idea of quality suggested in the book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. This also demonstrates one of the theoretical assumptions unavoidably inherent in neuro-linguistic programming to be individual solipsism (each person 'on their own' - solus ipse). This is the belief that each person's world is 'sufficient unto itself', each person's own myth or madness is regarded as a valid personal 'skill'. This kind of attitude, however, with its naive faith in the goodness of individuals and their motives, supporting a 'do what you want to do' attitude, easily wavers towards narcissism.

This person-oriented approach can, with a sensitive practitioner of wide human experience, doubtless be effective in gaining trust from - and thus interacting creatively with and influencing another person. It probably operates well where getting understanding, recognition and rapport is a major hindrance in persons' lives. This is reinforced by the optimistic Nlp tenet that "there is a positive intention in all our parts and all our behaviour". One would hope this to be true - and it may well largely be so - at least under normal civilised conditions, where hate and worse are not a daily feature of life. The tenet serves to affirm and hence to focus on the best in a person.

This can doubtless be effective as a means to give an affirmation and a sense of security in making contact, but what if the person's intentions are very largely self-centered in the egoistic sense? The 'positive aspect' of behaviour and intentions then applies only to that individual's interests and hence may well be negative in all other respects. It may not only involve neglecting others, ignoring the environment, flouting the world and so on in personal self-centeredness, but also involve aspects that are negative for one's greater interests or are directly self-destructive, but which the tenet itself rejects and invalidates. Such a mellow initial acceptance of any encountered difference from norms in other persons, if not modified and eventually checked as soon as certain important boundaries of morality and even of accepted social convention are surpassed, can lead to dangerous laxity in honesty, courage to confront wrong and consequent spineless thinking that encourages selfishness.

One of the fundamental Nlp questions to a client is, 'What do you really want?' This is a good starting point. However, the needs of others - as represented by society, are not given any importance, which fact emphasises an ego-centered bias. This concurs with a type of laissez-faire approach, akin to what is sometimes typified in individualistic American business... 'can-do thinking', where every man is on his own and for himself. It is not surprising, therefore, that neuro-linguistic programming has been sold on a huge scale to business for improvement of management skills etc. It is at this level that it seems likely to prove effective, not at the level of developing natural co-operation on selfless projects in social and human solidarity or in aiding supra-personal aspirations to rise above all attachments, such as in spiritual self-realisation through dedicated selfless action and consequent removal of the ego.

Return to CONTENTS

1. Sigmund Freud - The Future of an Illusion. (trans. 1928).

2. Sigmund Freud - The Ego and the Id.

3. Wilhelm Reich - Character Analysis

4. Alfred Adler The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology and What Life Should Mean to You (London 1932).

5. Psychology, Religion and Healing by Leslie D. Weatherhead (London 1951) also C.G. Jung's Confession Philip Rieff ('Encounter' Magazine).

6. Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious and other volumes of from The Collected Works of C.G. Jung. and Man and His Symbols (London 1963)

7. Fritz Perls, R. Hefferline & P. Goodman Gestalt Therapy (1973)

(The text of 'The Human Whole' revised ed. on this website is copyright of Robert Priddy. 1999)