Visions of Daniel
The Human Core of Spirituality: Mind as Psyche and Spirit. State University of New York Press, 1996.
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Proposes an understanding of the human being as inherently spiritual and thus sketches a psychological treatment of spirituality that would be
Spirituality has recently become an acceptable topic of popular discussion and even of academic interest outside religious circles--in psychology, philosophy, medicine, nursing, social work, education, politics. Yet most discussions of spirituality are loose and merely suggestive. Moreover, the frequent implication of God and differing religions complicates and befuddles this already difficult topic. This book, a companion to Religion and the Human Sciences (SUNY Press, 1998), sorts out these issues and presents a coherent understanding that could ground rigorous study of spirituality.
The basic argument is that spirituality is a human thing, grounded in the very make-up of the human being. To be sure, most spirituality expresses itself through religious belief and pious practice. Still, in essence, spirituality can be treated apart from religion and theology--and initially it needs to be if a coherent and accurate understanding of spirituality is the goal. And this is the goal here. This may also be what our contemporary, pluralistic world needs.
Part I teases apart the theological and the human facets of the matter and, bracketing the theological temporarily, focuses attention on the human. The key is an understanding of human mind as double. Mind entails two dimensions, psyche and spirit, so the standard bipartite models of the human as "body and mind" or "body and soul" gives way to a tripartite model: body (organism), psyche, and spirit.
Part II explains what the human spirit is and how its unbounded unfolding grounds spirituality. This explanation begins with a suggestive description, moves through an account of scientific definition, and then provides such definition for spirit in terms of Bernard Lonergan's four "levels" of consciousness: awareness, understanding, judgment of fact, and decision or judgment of value. This Part concludes by pointing out how spirit, so understood, can account for most of what people mean by spirituality. Though not banished, theology need never yet enter the discussion.
Part III elaborates the human psyche. Granted a delineation of spirit as a distinct aspect of human mind, this second aspect emerges in clarity. Psyche entails familiar things: emotions, imagery, memory, and personality patterns. Discussion shows how, for better or worse, psychological issues affect the functioning of the human spirit.
And turning finally to the biological organism, Part IV says what constitutes fully healthy humanity, namely, on-going personal integration that, attending to the needs of the organism and the psyche, is nonetheless ever respectful of the self-transcending dynamism of the human spirit.
A precise and careful exposition intertwines the recent widsom of psychological studies and psychotherapeutic practice and the long-standing concerns of the spiritual traditions. Said in psychological terms, this book presents a new theory of personality, a theory that posits spiritual concerns as essential to healthy humanity. Indeed, the spiritual, the leading edge of human growth and development, becomes the prime determinant of what "healthy" means. Accordingly, comparison with major psychological figures--Freud, Jung, Frankl, Maslow, Grof, Premack--contributes to the expostion at various points. Finally, a discussion of sexuality summarizes the book, provides an extended example of what spiritual integration would actually mean, and also indicates what difference it would make to bring God, and then again concern for union with God, back into the picture. Religion and the Human Sciences elaborates the integration of theology with psychology in extensive detail.
This book itself represents in part the promised scientific treatment of spirituality. Emphasizing the significance of Lonergan's "human authenticity"--openness, insight, honesty, and good will--this scholarly presentation details an account of objective meaning and value, the true and the good, on which our pluralistic society is foundering.
Coherently treating spirituality as a matter inherent to humanity, this approach to spirituality challenges religion, human science, and secular society. This approach calls the religions to focus on what they share in common and, through interdenominational cooperation, to help heal the fragmentation of the human family. This approach calls social science to take seriously the universal human realities that it has tended to ignore as "religious." And this approach calls contemporary communities and nations to attend to the spiritual issues that undergird any human society, whether religious or fully secular.
The Human Core of Spirituality: Mind as Psyche and Spirit
by Daniel A. Helminiak
I wish Huxley, Tillich, Maslow, May and Rogers were alive to champion this extension of their work. A welcome merger of Lonergan and humanistic psychology, self-actualization free of selfism, transcendence and morality without dogma.
It will make a needed contribution in the area of spirituality that can be joined to the study of the human psyche, and can be applied in fields like nursing to understand human health in its many forms. To take on the task of explaining spirit rigorously is just what I would have expected from Daniel Helminiak, given his ongoing and intrepid pursuit of knowledge development, and his willingness in previous writings to be critical of the ways that classical science and organized religion have treated human becoming. In this book, instead of presenting a deconstruction, he offers what is more useful, an alternative. He challenges the status quo while providing what is a major step forward in constructing a science of the spirit.
Helminiak's concept of the human spirit is clear, convincing and practical. It should become the working core of every practical discipline dealing in depth with human beings. The reader will come away from this text with a profound sense of the reality of spirit as a natural dimension of the human experience. This work is timely, well argued, and will clearly define the direction of future research and thought in the area of a naturalistic spirituality. Psychol-ogists, counselors, philosophers, theologians, and spiritual directors should be reading this book for a full understanding of naturalistic spirituality.
In this tour de force of scholarship and humanity, Daniel Helminiak cuts through the polyglot that has hampered our deliberations. He identifies spirituality's central issues, explores their implications, and points the way to development of a coherent, scientific approach to understanding life's transcendent dimension. I recommend this work to anyone willing to con-sider the possibility that much of what we call "spiritual" may be a human phenomenon--a phenomenon that, by its very nature, demands scientific inquiry.