“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope is strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But, suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice? Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”
— C.S. Lewis
Reading time: 8-10 mins
The Positive thinking, LOA and YCYOR triangle is the lynchpin of the new age or Human Potential Movement, often fused with left-liberal beliefs. What happens when these ways of viewing the world are placed in an overtly spiritual context?
A constant theme that runs through many of these essay series is the idea that one’s spiritual quest is fraught with potential dangers. It’s designed that way and is not for the faint-hearted. I am one of those who has learned the hard way that self-awareness and seeking truth requires an exacting sacrifice of personal, selfish desires.
If you decide to follow a genuine spiritual path without attending to fundamental emotional issues, you will find yourself on a very hard road indeed as the signal to grow receives a response. Such a response (depending on the degree of personality deformation present) sets in motion a process whereby the person is given the tools and circumstances by which soul influence can begin to grow. That cannot be anything other than painful since, like a drug addict, you are shedding outmoded and negative behaviours which you have taken on as normal. Cold turkey isn’t just for those coming off substance abuse, it can be as harrowing to divest yourself of childhood and cultural conditioning.
The cultural inculcation to support a psychopathic worldview is disguised as benevolence or empowerment. In the final analysis however, we always have a choice to change and to seek out what is really going on behind The Wizard Of Oz’s theatrical curtain on reality. Dealing with our emotions is the first step.
If we insist in wallowing in the influences of Official Culture, whilst immersing ourselves in the theory of spiritual transformation – it won’t work, at least not in the way we might think. Information becomes knowledge by applying and testing out what we have discovered. That means we cannot be in two realities at once which means a decision will need to be made, whether we like it or not. If you are perpetually on the fence then you at a standstill or worse, one centre of gravity within your personality will be inflated whilst another will atrophy.
Much of the illness of our western culture derives from the denial of what is, and the rejection of inner knowing in favour of security, self-satisfaction and a fragile peace. It’s ultimately a denial of the Universe/God which seeks consciousness, seeded in complex sentient life i.e. humans – to become self-aware, warts and all. Once we have made a contract with Life due to our self-evident existence, part of that decision is to willingly choose to access your greatest potential by serving others, thereby serving yourself. When we do so with conviction a new dimension of possibility opens up for us – literally. Walk long enough along that road without application of those discoveries then reality will become more and more insistent that you “walk the talk” away from theory and toward actualisation of faith and purpose.
This is the fundamental problem with authentic awakening – it means emotional purification and suffering. The survival mechanism of the limbic brain; the “foreign installation” of the predator’s Mind as Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan Matus called it, in combination with the ego and it’s complex of unconscious forces is so firmly in control as to be almost hopeless. Almost… Yet, it is our very awareness of this possibility – to heal, integrate, synthesize and transmute – that offers the first steps to growth and thereby truth.
The term “spiritual bypassing” was first coined by the late buddhist and psychologist John Welwood who defined it as: the “… tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” It’s another way to say that we use all and everything to avoid getting down and dirty with the inner house-cleaning. It is a utopia of the self via wishful thinking and a slice of arrogance. It’s the kind of spirituality that avoids the “blood” and “carnage” that usually accompanies true transformation in favour of the OM chant, sending love and light and other techniques that will naturally help to dispel all such inconveniences.
In Robert August Masters’ Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us From What Really Matters, (2010) he writes about this problem from the perspective of someone who experienced much of it. As a leader of a psycho-spiritual community fo many years he eventually found himself presiding over a cult and looking into the true reflection of himself and the pain and disruption he had caused. One could say he is really in the position to know of what he speaks…Whether or not his present state is truly repentant or that he merely changed his spots is hard to tell, as it is with so many these days, but he certainly appears to have had a Damascus moment and has since returned to assist. What he has described certainly has value and has built on Welwood’s initial interpretations of spiritual denial and the redeployment of spirituality as a means to lie to oneself.
The author lists symptoms of bypassing as:
- exaggerated detachment
- emotional numbing and repression
- overemphasis on the positive
- blind or overly tolerant compassion
- weak or too porous boundaries
- lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence)
- debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow side
- devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual
- delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being. 
Recognise any of the above?
What August Masters describes is essentially a conglomerate defence mechanism channelled into spiritual and/or occult interests. It is an avoidance and a crutch that enables us to feel good about ourselves whilst ironically disconnecting us to authentic expression. It is the legacy of the counter-culture of the 1960s and a host of CIA-funded programming which led to marketing phrases like “Turn on, tune in, drop out” shared by psychedelics advocate Timothy Leary in 1966. The gradual evolution of social justice, left-liberal academia, new age thinking and spiritual practice have all been vaccum-packed under positive thinking, LOA, and YCYOR. This has lead to the widespread and large-scale bypassing of metaphysical truth and practice.
While some say it is more about how we relate to life rather than the tools we use that determines harm – I would say it is both. As with any discipline and creative act, if we lack the correct knowledge it’s more probable that we employ incorrect tools for the job and unlikely that the outcome will be constructive. That is probably more applicable to self-development and metaphysical work than anything else.
If you want to drive in a nail, you don’t use a banana.
Gaining the right methodologies, mentors, teachers and psycho-spiritual tools is crucial if we are to make headway. Similarly, we don’t use blanket positive thinking in the face of serial psychopathy or view everything that comes our way with through rose-coloured spectacles if we are to honour the right use of integrity, self-control and compassion. We can look deeply within ourselves and with help, heal that which is holding us back. But as August Masters mentions: “Any spiritual path, Eastern or Western, that does not deal in real depth with psychological issues, and deal with these in more than just spiritual contexts, is setting itself up for an abundance of spiritual bypassing.”
Mahatma Gandhi once said that “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Like the search for happiness, spirituality isn’t something you achieve at the finish line or obtain as a bonus – it’s a process of becoming; a conscious choice to suffer and sacrifice for that inner harmony so that it can replace the survival mode that’s keeping us from living a full life. Right living emerges out of the acceptance of the present and letting go of the need to control, based usually on the undiscovered issues remaining within. It is about slowly re-constructing the inner well so that we might become a vessel worthy of “Divine Material”; to have the wherewithal to be a creative force in our own lives and for others; to do all we can to assume full responsibility for our own path and to develop the courage to persist, even when faced with conflict, tragedy, grief and betrayal.
It’s that painful knowing that you can no longer escape who you have become that gives you the will to redirect your focus to find out who you might turn out TO BE. That epiphany doesn’t come often and only then after a considerable battle.
David Álvarez Drawings | david-alvarez.blogspot.mx www.etsy.com/shop/Tlacuiloa
Jordan Bates’ honest essay Ten completely B.S. practices of supposedly spiritual people is inspired by August Masters’ book and is an accessible summary that’s well worth reading. We might also join the data from Daniel Kahneman’s research regarding cognitive dissonance, biases and rationalisations we routinely make everyday and perhaps then we could be in the position to understand how challenging it is to access what it means to truly live a spiritual life, a stage that could be considered a primer for further work along the road.
10 ‘Spiritual’ Things People Do That Sabotage Their Growth’
1. Participate in “spiritual” activities to make themselves feel superior to other people.
2. Use “spirituality” as a justification for failing to take responsibility for their actions.
3. Adopt new hobbies, interests, and beliefs simply because they’re the latest “spiritual” fad.
4. Judge others for expressing anger or other strong emotions, even when it’s necessary to do so.
5. Use “spirituality” as a justification for excessive drug use.
6. Overemphasize “positivity” in order to avoid looking at the problems in their lives and in the world.
7. Repress unpleasant emotions that don’t fit their “spiritual” self-narrative.
8. Feel deep aversion and self-loathing when confronted with their shadow side.
9. Find themselves in bad situations due to excessive tolerance and a refusal to distinguish between people.
10. Want so badly for various “spiritual” practices to be correct that they disregard science entirely. 
And when you refuse to “distinguish between people” – be it gender differences or pathology – and pretend that scientific facts don’t matter and feelings and flattery are the only metrics with any validity, you cut yourself off from any sort of psycho-spiritual growth.
I believe bypassed and inverted spirituality is a crime against Life itself, since we end up prostituting soul energy in vitro, before we’ve even begun. We bypass the hard stuff for short-term gains (such as they are) and then invert these principles to serve our own weaknesses; to remain in a cryogenic state without even knowing it. But if our conscience is stimulated by others or through our own efforts it just means we have made that path much tougher than it need be, but there is a chance for a Return. And understanding how we use our emotions and the developing emotional intelligence is a step toward that aim.
So, how do you find an authentic template to grow your soul?
Well, I suppose that’s all part of the journey. I found a suitable theoretical and practical framework in the past and ultimately proved to be a deeply unpleasant experience – for the ego. But it stripped away so much of the physic dross that accumulated and which made up my persona at that time. The experience initiated a revolution, just not in the way I imagined. It was like dying but it was also a liberation, allowing me to begin from ground zero and to see myself as I was. When you have that gift presented to you, which you may initially reject, there is a clear choice: to adhere to patterns of control and survival or to see yourself without the blinders to truth, without continually lying to yourself, and to fully engage with what you could be: a creative individual and a tiny spark of God’s mind. If you have that sincerity present – either from suffering or as an innate quality – then that spiritual guidance will find you.
It can be hard to know what’s fake and what’s real in this world but inner worth and persistence is always recognised in my view. Build your knowledge base for your body and mind as a life long process. Heal those emotions and find an aim. Most of all, keep a child-like openness and curiosity despite the darkness, because that’s what keeps the channels open to goodness, beauty and truth.
None of this means we need to suppress our emotions or divert that energy into our intellect or through fantasy. Self-observation doesn’t mean moving the energy around our mind in order to fit our various notions of what “spirituality” might be. Let go of all that. There is no one system that gives the whole banana but their repeating themes and pointers along the way.
The greatest thing we can do in preparation for deeper work is to let go of preconceived ideas, whilst we heal, observe, and watch what insights rise up from the body and mind. Try not to identify or anticipate the changes. Most of all, let go of the label of “spirituality” as that has a peverse tendency to set you apart from others and/or take on beliefs that encourage ego-inflation by stealth. Hopefully, as we work through the 31 and you adopt at least some of the suggestions, that’ll open up your system for a more creative engagement with life.
One principle that will get us all off to a flying start is not lying to ourselves.
Lying to the self kills conscience and any hope of a conscious path. Denial of life breeds non-being. And when you deny one’s deeper reality as a habitual coping mechanism, at some point along the line you effectively become a “soul-eater” rather than a soul nourisher; a vampire that requires external sources of psychic energy to function instead of the creative energy you have fuelled within. That is the endgame of such a path. No one can offer a spiritual insurance policy against such an outcome if we choose to reject our minute by minute chance to take responsibility for our destiny.
Anyone with a functioning conscience SHOULD feel uncomfortable when faced with the state of this world and our part in it. It is this discomfort, empathy and pain which stimulates conscience and moral responsibility. The spiritual fascism of The Secret, the cult of positive thinking and its LOA and YCYOR evangelism represents a ccynical marketing twist on that truth.
The positive thinking industry – as a by product of the self-help coaching market and new age religion – has been inflated to take centre stage because it appeals to our comfort zones and the age of access. These inversions are seductive. Our job is to develop discrimination and discernment despite these obstacles self-awareness if we TRULY want to grow.
By the same token, I hope the reader has understood that throwing the baby out with the bath water isn’t the goal. Positive, constructive emotions incorporate a unity of light and dark within the psyche; where the manipulation of reality is an anathema.
We CAN think positively; We CAN attract that which is beneficial and we CAN have a hand in “creating our own reality.” An affirmative approach to life, a healthy optimism and a strong moral code are the hallmarks of an active conscience. And what is conscience but a well-spring of love waiting to be shared?
But the devil, as ever, is in the details.
 p2; August Masters, Robert; Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us From What Really Matters (2010)
 ‘Spiritual Bypassing – Avoidance In Holy Drag’ By Robert August Masters | https://robertmasters.com/2013/04/29/spiritual-bypassing/
 ‘Spiritual Bypassing:Ten completely B.S. practices of supposedly spiritual people’ By Jordan Bates highexistence.com, 29 Mar 2017 | https://infrakshun.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/spiritual-bypassing.pdf