Preliminary Analysis of the Bahá'í Concept of Mental Health
by Laura Herzog1998-05
Thesis Committee:Frank Gruba-McCallister, Ph.D., Chair
Marjorie Witty, Ph.D., Member
Stanislav G. O’Jack, Ph.D., Member
A Clinical Research Project submitted to the faculty of the
Michael J. Charbonneau
Although the present study represents but a preliminary analysis of the Bahá’í concept of mental health, delimited to translated Scriptures and by the author’s understanding of Divine Revelation, numerous contributions made by others assisted this process. The Universal House of Justice, the administrative head of the Bahá’í Faith, responded to a number of questions and provided access to selected published materials, further contributing to my previous indebtedness for its kind support, which I might never manage to deserve. The encouragement of Mr. ‘Alí Nakhjavání, in response to my original query concerning the Bahá’í concept of mental health, became a sustaining memory throughout the process of this study, after echoing in my mind for a period of fifteen years; I remain grateful to be one of the many he has inspired. I am particularly indebted to Dr. Stanislav O’Jack, the Bahá’í member of my committee, for once again guiding me, as he did at the beginning of my spiritual journey. Dr. Frank Gruba-McCallister and Dr. Marjorie Witty, understanding of my interests and professional need to weigh psychological theory and practice in the balance of religious beliefs, allowed focus upon the vast universe within the person and the purpose of being, rather than requiring a narrow impersonal topic involving the writing of more and more about less and less in greater detail. Dr. Eleanor Criswell, ever-supportive of my efforts, somehow found time to review and comment upon the material, while Dr. Phillip Zediker and Sheila King offered valuable observations from their respective religious persuasions. Lee Nelson, Rebecca Pourroy, and Sharon DiGiacomo provided greatly appreciated technical support.
A preliminary Bahá’í concept of mental health developed
from the translated Scriptures of the religion utilizes
the published works of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
as well as those of Shoghi Effendi and the Universal
House of Justice. This conceptualization, initially
formulated following examination of psychological theories
concerning the healthy personality taken from the works
of Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Jung, is further
developed through identification of areas of similarity
and difference with respect to definitions of human
nature, personality, and developmental trajectory,
and with regard to functioning in society. Findings
indicate the religion’s general agreement concerning
the importance of lifelong development of the individual’s
higher nature, increase of internal locus of control,
decrease of blind imitation, and social involvement
and responsibility; departures from psychological concepts
include theological constructs concerning the dual
purpose of existence, the interrelated functioning
of soul, mind, and spirit, and the critical role of
detachment from the lower nature for the purpose of
developing the higher nature.
Throughout mankind’s recorded history, religion has played an integral part in the shaping of the behavior of individuals and of the societies that they comprise. The spires of cathedrals and the minarets of mosques stand in silent testimony to humanity’s loftiest sentiments, aspirations, and ideals, while the ovens of concentration camps and the remains of moldering mass graves are expressions of its basest nature and blindness of heart. The waning of the vitality of belief in religion as a guiding force for moral conduct and the blatant use of religion as excuse for evil purposes, evidenced by both individual and societal expressions of intolerance and the prevalence of blind imitation and irreligious ideologies, can enhance perception of an overall pattern of Divine Revelation during recorded history, as well as providing insight into the conflictual views concerning true nature of the person and the limited credence given to the important role of spiritual development by the field of psychology at this time. The present study, an analysis of a concept of mental health derived from the Sacred Writings of the Bahá’í Faith, examines the individual and select psychological theories with reference to social evolution, utilizing the religion’s teachings on human nature and spiritual development to shape a preliminary definition of the healthy personality, for the reference and possible use of Bahá’í clinicians.
According to the perspective offered by the Bahá’í Faith, a succession of Prophets, appearing to humanity in different lands and at different historical times, all identified Themselves as representing a link to God, affirmed in authentic Scriptures the Divine origin of the Prophets that preceded Them, and proffered Teachings that both restated and elaborated upon fundamental spiritual verities intended to guide human conduct, while providing social laws designed to address the exigencies of Their respective religious dispensations. The cyclical nature of the renewal of religion through a series of Prophets, the corresponding development and increasing complexity of the societies in which They have appeared, as well as the role of clergy-prompted prejudice in furthering the expression of blind imitation and intolerance, have at this point in human history combined to obscure the light of the “lamp of religion” (Bahá’u’lláh, 1978, p. 125) in human hearts.
Regarding present societal circumstances of deterioration and progress as expressive of a process in which there is a concurrent rolling up of an old order while a new order is being rolled out in its place (Bahá’u’lláh, 1972), the Bahá’í Faith affirms that the originating impulse for change is the appearance of a new Prophet and His revelation. To its members, it asserts the fundamentally spiritual purpose of human existence, the excellence of the individual’s reality, the importance of the use of difficult life experiences as a means of development, and the transcendent, transformative character of an evolving relationship with God as serving as basis for the advancement of both the individual and society. As such, the Bahá’í view of the person essentially defines optimal mental health of the individual in terms of relationship to God and adherence to religious teachings and spiritual principles, while guiding a relationship to a society now in a turbulent stage of adolescence, but on the threshold of its age of maturity. Through explication of the religion’s concepts of the reality of the person and higher nature, as they pertain to the healthy personality, the present study provides preliminary analysis.
Largely silent about the efflorescence of civilization that has followed the appearance of each Prophet of God, as well as the relationship between the loss of spiritual belief and the deterioration of societal institutions prior to such appearances, the nascent field of psychology has generally examined human behavior without reference to religion, while endeavoring to define mental health within a context of bewilderingly rapid social change. Attempting to address a multitude of mental health problems emerging as a result of the strain on social systems, the breakdown of family values, the evolution of gender roles, and long-standing, neglected racial prejudices and economic inequities, psychology has largely focused on the assessment and treatment of psychopathology in its most serious and debilitating expressions, refraining from comment on mounting evidence of moral bankruptcy and disequilibrium within the larger social context. The task of addressing the person as his or her most bizarre or base self for the purpose of alleviating mental suffering has remained focal and often without reference to the individual’s higher self and transcendent capacities, long recognized by the major religions of the world, and without definition of the true nature of the human being and mental health.
The emphasis placed on purely intrapsychic mechanisms of human functioning and mental illness by certain schools of psychological thought, which may be of undebatable relevance to an understanding of particular individual cases, as well as of a person’s lower nature, is a response to symptoms akin to the medical model, but limited in its conceptualization of a state of psychological health. In keeping with such models of the human being, broader social causes are necessarily outside of the purview of their respective theoretical considerations and therapeutic modalities. However, thorough exploration of and expatiation about instinctual drives cannot negate the existence of a higher nature or the volitional subordination of drives through which it is partially expressed. This must be brought to bear upon definitions of mental health and illness. Indeed, having emerged at what the religion regards as a spiritual low-water mark in human history, drive theory may accurately reflect the ebbing influence of religious faith and practice on human conduct, as well as an adolescent stage of societal development in which the capacity to love and work is shaped by motivations revolving around self- gratification.
Comparison of some of the major definitions of mental health, as found in the corpus of the psychological literature, reveals a diverse, conflicting, and somewhat overlapping body of thought concerning human capacity, development, and potentiality, while expressing divergent opinions concerning social functioning in a complex world. Reflecting both the evolution of thought concerning human nature as refracted through the lens of contemporary societal values, as well as a growing body of research on consciousness, a consensus of opinion has yet to be reached with regard to what constitutes a healthy personality or what might be identified as an optimal psychological condition of the individual in an ongoing process of experiencing an evolving life within a complex milieu. As though grasping different parts of an elephant, theorists point to aspects of human functioning that might be brought to bear on the question of psychological health. A few disparate examples may serve to illustrate the complexity of the task.
Concepts, such as that of hardiness postulated by Kobasa (1981), underscore the presence of personality factors that provide for resilience in the face of adversity, while the work of Taylor (1983) indicated the role of self-deception in the ongoing maintenance of an optimistic, positive sense of self. A large body of empirical research on internal and external locus of control holds implications for the clinical study of depression and its treatment, while current developmental theory includes the study of change throughout the life cycle (Erikson, 1950; Levinson, 1978) that essentially argues against regarding the human being as achieving and maintaining a psychological steady state. Given the vastness of the literature conceivably considered in this connection, an adequate definition of mental health is perhaps no less difficult to devise than one for mental illness.
A growing number of theorists, disinclined to regard psychology as a form of secular religion without salvation, and unwilling to circumscribe their understanding of the individual and the useful application of psychological thought to management of a few instinctual drives within a limited developmental path, have directed their attention to more holistic perspectives of the person and toward understanding of the farther reaches of human nature. While generally lacking in identification of an overarching purpose for existence, as found in the Scriptures of the world’s religions, such theories point to manifold aspects of human potentialities, a trajectory of development that spans the lifetime, a spiritual dimension of the person’s being and realms of consciousness that encourage both self-realization and self-actualization, as well as a heightened sense of social responsibility. Those whose writings address issues concerning the individual’s healthy personality, higher nature, and consciousness include, but are not limited to, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Jung. The concepts of mental health that appear in the writings of these well-known authors appear in the present work, examined with reference to their respective views on religion, as both backdrop to and contrast with a preliminary definition derived from the translated Bahá’í Writings.
Carl Rogers, humanistic psychologist, educator, and researcher, is best-known for his development of client-centered therapy, through which he developed his concept of the fully-functioning person. He regarded the person as having a fundamentally positive nature and directionality of growth, identifying human development as being fostered by the experience of unconditional positive regard, empathy, and congruence within the context of interrelationship, entailing development of an internal locus of evaluation. His work included his vision of the person of tomorrow.
The work of Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, provided his concept of the self-actualizing person, identified as the psychologically healthy individual who has raised the self to fullest stature as a human being. Maslow identified the process of self- actualization as one in which the person uncovers potentialities through efforts at a calling or mission, striving toward being-values that reflect a state of perfection. He identified these values as being readily available perceptions within mystical or “peak-experiences”. Maslow further identified the good society as being a necessary matrix for the development of the self-actualized, good person.
The voluminous writings of Carl Jung, a psychoanalytic psychologist, explicated a comprehensive personality theory. His work included detailing his conceptualization of the psyche’s conscious and unconscious components, derived through examination of his own clinical work, as well as through exploration of different religions, cultures, and sciences and classical scholarship. Jung’s concept identified individuation as a process of development of the healthy personality.
From the religious perspective in question, the Bahá’í Faith identifies the person’s essential nature as being fundamentally spiritual and essential reality as being the individual’s thought (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1972). Reaffirming earlier religions, the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith indicate that “man” was created in the image and likeness of God, having both mind and spirit as properties of an inherently incomprehensible soul. The Bahá’í concept of the individual affirms capacity to reflect, like a mirror, either divine attributes or satanic qualities. Polishing the mirror of the obscuring dust and dross of worldly desires and imperfections enables the person to display his or her true nature and inherent capacities.
According to the Bahá’í Writings, focus of the mirror on worldly attachments, efforts toward self-aggrandizement and ease, and concern with the satiation of instincts prevent recognition of the human’s essential purpose, obscure knowledge of a “gem-like reality” (Bahá’u’lláh, 1976, p. 72) and unbounded potential, dissipate personal energy, and limit motivation for advancement beyond materialistic and ephemeral interests. Identifying heaven and hell as conditions of proximity to God that exist within the individual, regarding the ego as the animalistic side of the individual’s nature, and recognizing the importance of self-knowledge for personal transformation and the development of spiritual qualities that result from a search for God, the Writings emphasize endeavor and detachment as means of polishing and focusing the mirror. In the Bahá’í perspective, service to humanity is a tool that supplants self-interest while spiritualizing the civilization that influences the person. In keeping with this, to disregard a condition of social disease in the community is tantamount to ignoring gangrene in one’s foot on the basis of its remoteness from one’s head.
As with the theologies of other religions, the Bahá’í Faith identifies the purpose of existence as one of attaining nearness to God, which continues beyond earthly existence in an afterlife. Essentially identifying the world as a workshop, the religion regards human development as inclusive of the growth of spiritual capacities throughout the life-span, in interaction with the social milieu. Parallel to and participant in the advancement of the civilization, it has identified present human capacities as consistent with the developmental stage of adolescence. Maturation of both requires the development of spiritual susceptibilities and transcendent capabilities, in addition to the regulation of impulses, the assumption of responsibility, and the recognition of authority, in keeping with adulthood. Given its conception of salvation as motion, rather than as spiritual homeostasis or a steady state (Hatcher, 1987), and a perspective of divine perfections as infinite, the Bahá’í definition of the healthy personality therefore must necessarily evolve with humanity’s individual and collective reflection of the Absolute in the world of existence.
In advancing an initial concept of mental health as reflecting a condition of development that includes both conscious knowledge and faith, the Writings of the Bahá’í religion are predictive of an evolution of consciousness that is both unitive and universal in nature, and in which the excellence of human reality will be progressively revealed. The Bahá’í principle of independent investigation of truth, the absence of clergy, prohibition of pulpits, and discouragement of blind imitation are but a few elements of the religion that point to the importance of an internal locus of control, in which God is both aim and helper, on a pathway directed toward self-realization and responsible adulthood. Regarding the individual as the “supreme talisman” (Bahá’u’lláh, 1983, p. 259) in need of education to progress, the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith identify the person’s evolving higher nature as fundamental to healthy functioning and essential for the advancement of civilization. The potentiality of divinity in the individual’s nature (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982), a capacity to respond to divine teachings as the “choice Wine” (Bahá’u’lláh, 1992, p. 21) for personal transformation rather than as a set of laws, the ability to utilize prayer and meditation as wings for spiritual ascent and transcendental experience, the option to exercise volition with regard to that which degrades the person’s station, the prerogative of utilizing suffering as impetus to growth, and the capacity to recognize the existence of timeless and placeless realms within the self as evidenced by dreams call into question the adequacy of current definitions of mental health and normal functioning, from which conceptualizations of mental illness derived.
Shoghi Effendi (1984) quoted Bahá’u’lláh, the Prophet of the Bahá’í Faith, as stating that the Revelation represents “an eye to past ages and centuries, and a light to the darkness of the times” (p. 79). The definition of mental health derived from its Writings is not one based upon standards of conformity to what the author referred to as a “tottering civilization” (1974, p. 89) careless of God, but emerges from its identification of the manifold potentialities of the individual’s spiritual reality and from an apprehension of Divine will and purpose for this day. The topic is therefore identified as being of particular clinical relevance to mental health professionals whose provision of services to members of this religion requires grasp of the Bahá’í conceptual framework. Further, in a letter written on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf, the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith indicated that “as the world becomes more spiritually minded and scientists understand the true nature of man, more humane and permanent cures for mental diseases will be found” (Hornby, 1988, p. 282). The subject is identified as contributory to the development of paradigms that recognize that the emergence of psychology within a historical context of the ebb and flow of religion has circumscribed its understanding of the true nature of the person, and consequently, the utility of models geared for a humanity in adolescence to address an emerging adulthood.
As previously stated, the following study identifies a preliminary concept of mental health from the translated Scriptures of the Bahá’í religion, giving credence to divine Authority over that of human conceptions, in analysis of germane constructs from three psychological theories that accord to the person a higher nature. Delimitations of the study include restriction of research to the translated, published Bahá’í Writings, as well as the apparent silence of the religion’s teachings concerning particular psychological concepts. Contrast of the Bahá’í teachings with current psychological theories identifies common ground, as well as departures from prevailing concepts that indicate uniqueness, while identifying areas for further study.
The theoretical perspectives of psychologists Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Jung concerning the healthy personality appear in separate chapters. Carl Rogers’ views of human nature and directionality preface an outline of his concept of the fully- functioning person, developed through unconditional positive regard, empathy, congruence, and an internal locus of control. Abraham Maslow’s concept of the self- actualizing person follows presentation of his views on science and religion, given the extent to which the latter shaped his theory, as well as his basic position concerning human motivation and the process of uncovering potentialities, as reflected in being-values experienced in states of transcendence. The process of individuation postulated by Carl Jung follows an outline of his personality theory, including consciousness, the collective unconscious, the ego, instincts, and archetypes, as well as the author’s views concerning sex and religion. Each of the chapters includes a brief treatment of the theorist’s perspective on societal functioning.
The chapters on fully-functioning, self-actualization, and individuation precede a chapter on the Bahá’í concept of spiritual development, primarily drawn from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Examination of this process follows brief sections on major concepts of evolution, human nature, the soul, mind, and spirit, and it precedes a short discussion of spiritual civilization. A chapter that responds to the main formulations presented by the psychologists from a Bahá’í perspective provides further illustration of the religion’s concept of mental health, while suggesting areas for further study identified in the concluding chapter.
Carl Rogers, acclaimed as one of America’s foremost psychologists, is further credited as a prolific writer, educator, and researcher. He is best known for his development of client-centered therapy, which utilizes a phenomenological approach for assisting individuals within the context of psychotherapy. Rogers’ fundamentally positive perspective of human nature and his belief that the human being has an inherent directionality toward growth is in clear evidence in the therapy that he pioneered; as researcher, he was fortified in his views by clinical data obtained from an emerging technology of recording. The basic concepts that Rogers originally identified as critical to successful therapy he later identified as having broader application to human relationships and personal growth, including education, encounter groups, management, conflict resolution, and international affairs.
Jourard attributed Rogers’ greatness not to the development of techniques, research, or theory, but to “his conquest of the upbringing that would limit his growth” (Jourard, 1974, p. 346). In his text on the healthy personality, he further identified Rogers as a model for the development of authentic relationships, noting consistency between his beliefs and his actions, as well as citing the author’s critical views concerning group experience and education as a matter of a “therapist ‘gone prophet’” (Jourard, 1974, p. 347) for the good of others. Rogers’ impetus was not that of self-aggrandizement, but of fostering healing and self-direction, as a mature, psychologically-trained person-in-process.
Prior to his study of psychology, Rogers engaged in formal theological education as preparation for a career in religious work. After two years in a seminary, Rogers recognized that he could not remain in a field that required him to endorse a particular religious doctrine or circumscribed his own freedom of thought. He later related that through examination of his own questions, he thought his way out of the seminary (Rogers, 1989f). Ultimately, Rogers identified himself as an agnostic, while retaining a serious interest in theological questions and discussions, including human nature, values, and the concept of evil (Kirschenbaum and Henderson, 1989a, 1989b; Kirschenbaum, 1979). A growing interest in the nature of reality, existential issues, and social problems appears to be reflected in his evolving work.
In the 1950's, Rogers outlined his early conceptualization of human personality in a major work on client-centered therapy, formulating nineteen propositions derived from his clinical experiences. In so doing, he acknowledged the contributions to his thinking made by numerous authors. To outline briefly his theory, the following represents a paraphrased condensation of the propositions (Rogers, 1951, pp. 481-533).
The individual exists in a world of experience, or phenomenal field, identifying it as reality and reacting to it as an organized whole. The organism has the tendency to actualize, maintain, and enhance itself, resulting in goal-directed behavior attended by emotions commensurate with the perceived significance of the activity. Understanding of the behavior is best reached through grasp of the internal frame of reference of the individual. Gradually, a portion of the perceptual field becomes differentiated as the self, through evaluation of others and interaction in the environment; the self is organized and fluid. Both through experience and introjection, values are experienced by the organism; in some instances, values are distorted. Experiences of the individual are either symbolized, perceived, and organized into a relationship with the self, ignored because there is no perceived relationship to the self-structure, or denied accurate symbolization due to inconsistency with the self.
Most of the individual’s behaviors are consistent with his or her concept of self; however, behavior may be brought about by experiences and needs that have not been symbolized. Psychological maladjustment occurs when the individual denies to awareness sensory and visceral experiences consequently not symbolized and organized into the gestalt of the self-structure. Experiences that are inconsistent with the organization or structure of the self may be perceived as a threat; in the absence of perceived threat, the structure of the self is revised to include the experiences. The individual is more understanding of others when able to perceive and accept all sensory and visceral experiences. The process of perception and acceptance includes replacement of the introjected value system with a continuing organismic valuing process.
Although Rogers wrote a second piece on his theory of personality during that decade, his later works reflected an evolving view that placed increased emphasis upon the person as a process; he attributed his disinclination to elaborate on his theory further to a lack of interest in personality as a structure shaped by the past (Rogers, 1961, 1989a). Further, Rogers did not identify specific developmental stages occurring during the human life- span, but conceptualized the human being as an individual in an ongoing process of becoming, within a life that is evolving in a fluid manner. Writing of himself and others within the context of therapy, Rogers (1961) expressed the following perspective in his characteristically personal style:
Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed. In my clients and in myself I find that when life is at its richest and most rewarding it is a flowing process. To experience this is both fascinating and a little frightening. I find that I am at my best when I can let the flow of my experience carry me, in a direction which appears to be forward, toward goals of which I am dimly aware. In thus floating with the complex stream of my experiencing, and in trying to understand its ever-changing complexity, it should be evident that there are no fixed points. When I am thus able to be in process, it is clear that there can be no closed system of beliefs, no unchanging set of principles which I hold. Life is guided by a changing understanding of and understanding of my experience. It is always in process of becoming. (p. 27)
In one of his early statements about human nature, largely derived from his experiences in therapy, Rogers indicated that he did not identify the person as a tabula rosa on which anything could be written, nor did he posit that the individual is totally malleable; rather, he believed that members of the human species have inherent characteristics described by the terms “positive, forward-moving, constructive, realistic, trustworthy” (Rogers, 1989c, p. 403). The author noted in this connection the valuing process of the infant, who expresses actualizing preferences from birth (Rogers, 1989g). Rogers denied having a Pollyanna view of human nature, acknowledging that defensiveness and fear can provoke individuals to maliciousness, destructiveness, and anti-social behavior. The author’s perspective, as quoted by his biographer (Kirschenbaum, 1979), is largely expressed as follows:
My experience is that he is a basically trustworthy member of the human species, whose deepest characteristics tend toward development, differentiation, cooperative relationships; whose life tends fundamentally to move from dependence to independence; whose impulses tend naturally to harmonize into a complex and changing pattern of self-regulation; whose total character is such as to tend to preserve and enhance himself and his species, and perhaps to move it toward its further evolution. In my experience, to discover that an individual is truly and deeply a unique member of the human species is not a discovery to excite horror. Rather I am inclined to believe that fully to be a human being is to enter into the complex process of being one of the most widely sensitive, responsive, creative and adaptive creatures on this planet. (p. 250)
Rogers clearly believed that the therapist expresses a view of human nature and value orientation within the context of therapy. In this connection, he regarded Freud’s emphasis on aggressive and sexual impulses as having left him with a dark and superficial view of human nature. The author did not view individuals as being dominated by id impulses, nor did he characterize people by terms such as “fundamentally hostile, antisocial, destructive” (Rogers, 1989c, p. 403). Of human nature, Rogers (1989c) stated:
I have little sympathy with the rather prevalent concept that man is basically irrational, and that his impulses, if not controlled, will lead to destruction of others and self. Man’s behavior is exquisitely rational, moving with subtle and ordered complexity toward the goals his organism is endeavoring to achieve. The tragedy for most of us is that our defenses keep us from being aware of this rationality, so that consciously we are moving in one direction, while organismically we are moving in another. But in our person who is living the process of the good life there would be a decreasing number of such barriers, and he would be increasingly a participant in the rationality of his organism. The only control of impulses which would exist or which would prove necessary is the natural and internal balancing of one need against another, and the discovery of behaviors which follow the vector most closely approximating the satisfaction of all needs. (p. 406)
In an exchange of letters with existential psychologist Rollo May, Rogers indicated that he did not believe that human nature includes an inherently evil element, but rather, that cultural influences are the major factor in negative behavioral expressions (Rogers, 1989d). Consistent with his view that humans are by nature social beings, Rogers (1989d) further stated that “In a psychological climate which is nurturant of growth and choice, I have never known an individual to choose the cruel or destructive path. Choice always seems to be in the direction of greater socialization, improved relationships with others” (p. 218). The author clearly placed emphasis on the nature of the environment as critical to the expression of the true nature of the individual, which does not have a condition of depravity at its core. Identifying the person as moving toward wholeness and integration, Rogers (1989a) wrote:
When [man] is most fully man, when he is his complete organism, when awareness of experience, that peculiarly human attribute, is most fully operating, then he is to be trusted, then his behavior is constructive. It is not always conventional. It will not always be conforming. It will be individualized. But it will also be socialized. (p. 27)
In his theory of personality as well as in his view of human nature, Rogers identified the person as having an inherent tendency toward psychological growth, rather than conceptualizing an ultimate, optimum condition of homeostasis. This basic concept is pivotal to both Rogers’ perspective of the healthy personality, as well as to the facilitation of its development in therapy and during the course of daily human interactions. Concerning what would come to be identified as “the growth hypothesis” Rogers (1989a) stated:
in most if not all individuals there exist growth forces, tendencies toward self- actualization, which may act as the sole motivation for therapy....The individual has the capacity and the strength to devise, quite unaided, the steps which will lead him to a more mature and more comfortable relationship to his reality. (p. 26)
Human growth as an intrinsic aspect of the person throughout his or her life cycle is but one component of the healthy personality. Rogers identified this as largely occurring in a socially interactive process; in therapy, the characteristics of the therapist of congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy internalized by the client are integral to the process of unfolding. Quoting Kierkegaard, Rogers (1961) referred to this development of potentiality as becoming “the self which one truly is” (p. 166), through which the good life evolves. Further, having emphasized a basic trust in human nature and an inherently positive directionality, Rogers indicated that the process entails the development of an internal locus of evaluation, in which organisms connect with their own feelings and bodily sensations concerning relevant circumstances and respond to and from a fuller perceptual field. With regard to self-actualization, Rogers underscored the presence of external stimulation as an important element for learning and development (Frick, 1971).
Rogers defined congruence as a condition of genuineness or realness in the therapist that facilitates the process of the client. As such, it is a state of relating in which the therapist does not function from behind a mask of professionalism or persona, for the purpose of fostering a similar condition of authenticity in the client. As previously stated, Rogers’ phenomenological field-approach to the person accurately symbolizes the experience of the individual, for incorporation into the self-concept.
Of particular note regarding the concept of congruence as it pertains to the therapeutic relationship and other social interactions, such as those between parent and child or teacher and student, is the extent to which the author regarded the condition as indicative of the psychological health and adjustment of the individual. During an interview with Willard Frick (1971), Rogers stated:
if the individual is experiencing something in his organism, if he’s aware of it in himself and acceptant enough of that experiencing that he even would be able to express it if the situation was appropriate for it, then I think I would say that he is in as great a degree of psychological health as his organism would permit at that moment....I think the more an individual is fully aware of what’s going on within him at that point, the more he is making as healthy a reaction to that situation as is possible. (p. 92)
Elsewhere, Rogers (1989e) identified optimal psychological health as being synonymous with congruence of self and experience, but did not regard congruence as a steady state, as the ongoing change in experience necessitates a continually altering awareness.
Unconditional Positive Regard
Rogers identified the unconditional positive regard of the client, an acceptant and non- judgmental attitude toward the person, as important to a process of positive psychological development. His basic orientation prizes the individual and recognizes that conditions of worth set by early caregivers and significant others may have disinclined self-acceptance and promoted an unnecessarily defensive posture, while encouraging non-accepting attitudes toward others. Rogers likened unconditional positive regard to the theological concept of agape, a non-possessive caring for the person as a separate individual, noting that treating others as objects is not helpful (Rogers, 1989b).
The empathic understanding of the client by the therapist is the third condition that fosters psychological maturity. Rogers (1980) defined empathy as follows:
The state of empathy, or being empathic, is to perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the “as if” condition. Thus it means to sense the hurt or the pleasure of another as he senses it and to perceive the causes thereof as he perceives them, but without ever losing the recognition that it is as if I were hurt or pleased and so forth. If this “as if” quality is lost, then the state is one of identification (pp. 140-141)
Rogers stated that this capacity enables the other person more freely to experience his or her own feelings and perceptions (1989a); through greater understanding and acceptance, the self becomes more congruent with experience. Moreover, the author linked increased openness and acceptance of personal experience to that of acceptance of the experience of others (Rogers, 1961).
Internal Locus of Evaluation
Rogers clearly identified the process of becoming a fully-functioning person with that of development of an internal locus of evaluation. He hypothesized that through enhanced awareness and acceptance of the self, including bodily sensations and feelings, there would be a reduction of the individual’s need to utilize defenses that distort perception. In this connection, Rogers postulated that individuals would engage in an increased examination of values of others introjected in an effort to gain love and approval that function to keep them in an unhealthy state of incongruence. Further, in keeping with his fundamental trust in the individual, Rogers’ therapy recognizes that clients are best able to choose constructive personal goals and indicate their own direction, on a course directed toward psychological maturity and independence.
The author viewed the process toward becoming a fully-functioning person as one in which the person recognizes that the evaluations of others are not a guide and that the center of responsibility is within oneself. Rogers (1961) stated:
Another trend which is evident in the process of becoming a person relates to the source or locus of choices and evaluations. The individual comes to increasingly feel that this locus of evaluation lies within himself. Less and less does he look to others for approval or disapproval; for standards to live by; for decisions and choices. He recognizes that it rests within him to choose; that the only question which matters is, “Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?” (p. 119)
In keeping with this, he believed that the inherent nature of the fully-functioning person would supply personal values that would change in the light of ongoing experience, enhanced perception, and self-awareness.
Rogers noted the state of contradiction in current values and expressed doubt that universal values could occur in modern-day society. Rather, he believed that mature individuals themselves would value and choose that which would promote the survival, growth, and development of themselves and that of others. In this connection, Rogers (1989g) identified the psychologically mature person as being in a process of becoming “a worthy participant and guide in the process of human evolution” (p. 283). The author further stated:
Instead of universal values “out there”, or a universal value system imposed by some group--philosophers, rulers, or priests--we have the possibility of universal human value directions merging from the experiencing of the human organism. Evidence from therapy indicates that both personal and social values emerge as natural, and experienced, when the individual is close to his own organismic valuing process. The suggestion is that though modern man no longer trusts religion or science or philosophy or any system of beliefs to give him his values, he may find an organismic valuing base within himself, which, if he can learn again to be in touch with it, will prove to be an organized, adaptive, and social approach to the perplexing value issues which face all of us. (p. 184)
The Person of Tomorrow
For the fully-functioning person, the good life is a constructive process of movement toward responsible, self-directed goals. Commenting about what the good life is not, Rogers (1961) wrote:
It seems to me that the good life is not any fixed state. It is not, in my estimation, a state of virtue, or contentment, nirvana, or happiness. It is not a condition in which the individual is adjusted, or fulfilled, or actualized. To use psychological terms, it is not a state of drive-reduction, or tension-reduction, or homeostasis. (p. 186)
Rogers (1961) identified the general qualities of an increasing openness to experience, a growing tendency toward existential living, and a developing trust in one’s organism as part of the process of functioning more fully, in keeping with his definition of the healthy personality. These qualities are among those that the author attributed to the person of tomorrow, having recognized the present rapid change in society.
Rogers (1980) regarded the world as being in a transformational crisis, having potential future scenarios including nuclear war, development of technology to the extreme of separation from the natural world, and development of human potentialities leading to drastic social change. With regard to the last, he believed that the following additional characteristics would enable a person to live in a revolutionized world: caring, desire for authenticity, skepticism regarding science and technology, desire for wholeness, wish for intimacy, closeness to nature, antipathy for bureaucracy, indifference to material comforts and rewards, and yearning for the spiritual (Rogers, 1980). Of the future and the person of tomorrow, Rogers (1980) stated:
The reason for my optimism lies in the persistent development and flowering of all of the changes in scientific, social, and personal perspectives....The persons of tomorrow are the very ones who are capable of understanding that paradigm shift. They will be the ones capable of living in this new world, the outlines of which are still only dimly visible. But unless we blow ourselves up, that new world is inevitably coming, transforming our culture. This new world will be more human and humane. It will explore and develop the richness and capacities of the human mind and spirit. It will produce individuals who are more integrated and whole. It will be a world which prizes the individual person-- the greatest of our resources. It will be a more natural world, with a renewed love and respect for nature. It will develop a more human science, based on new and less rigid concepts. Its technology will be aimed at enhancing, rather than the exploitation, of persons and nature. It will release creativity as individuals sense their power, their capacities, their freedom. (pp. 355-356)
It would appear that through a basic orientation to
the self as a process, openness to experience, and
an internal locus of control, Rogers’ fully-functioning
person, having an essentially positive nature,
directionality, and sociability, would be more capable
of adapting to a rapidly evolving society and of becoming
the person of tomorrow.
Abraham Maslow, generally regarded as a father of third force or humanistic psychology, developed his concept of the healthy personality within a career trajectory that examined both animal and human behavior, explored issues pertaining to science and religion, questioned human motivation and values, probed minority and gender issues, and proffered concepts and schemes for a good society. While initially building his motivational theories upon a psychoanalytic foundation, as indicated in the preface of Motivation and Personality (1970a), Maslow later made substantial revisions reflecting an evolution in his thinking about human nature. As noted in his journal, he identified his own work as a system “that is not a contradiction of Freudian clinical findings but assimilates them, builds upon them, sometimes transforming them” (Maslow, 1979,
p. 201); the author further indicated that he did not regard Freud’s philosophy of humanity as being consistent with the goal of integration implied by the latter’s therapy.
Dissatisfied with the usage of “health” and “illness” as normative words having connotations of social approval and disapproval, Maslow chose to regard his work as a psychology of being and becoming that regarded the healthy personality as the self- actualized person (Maslow, 1970a, 1979). Although he clearly identified an understanding of psychopathology and pathogenesis as important to a grasp of human functioning, he did not believe that an accurate conception of true nature of a human being could derive from examination of the various mental illnesses to which the person is subject. Further, while not dismissing the instinctive drives set forward in classical psychoanalysis, and while regarding it as necessary to have a foundation upon which to build an upper floor, Maslow developed a conceptualization of the person in which he gave credence to the positive aspects of both the lower and higher nature, arguing for the potential existence of a cooperative relationship between the expressive facets of his or her being (Maslow, 1970a; 1979). To simplify his perspective, Maslow stated that “Freud supplied to us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out with the healthy half” (Maslow, 1968b, p. 5). It was to the study of the fully-functioning person, including his or her needs, values, and experiences of transcendence, that Maslow dedicated most of his efforts.
In his journals, Maslow clearly identified himself as both a Utopian and an atheist (Maslow, 1979); his beliefs in the human’s capacity to shape the society in which he or she lives, as well as in the absence of what he regarded as supernatural influences, manifested in his image of the individual. The author’s conviction was that both science and religion require redefinition; he noted that each has been too narrowly conceived, dichotomized, and placed in separate worlds to the detriment of both (Maslow, 1966b; 1970b). His perspective of each is germane to adequate understanding of the self- actualized person.
Briefly stated, Maslow’s objection to the current definition of science was that its efforts to be value-free in the name of scientific objectivity have resulted in its having “mistakenly conceived of itself as having nothing to say about ends or ultimate values or spiritual values” (Maslow, 1970b, p. 11), relegating the field to a crippled role of amoral technology. Further, in his examination of the psychology of science, he noted that the study of the higher psychological processes of the person does not fit neatly into existing scientific procedures and schemas for acquiring reliable knowledge. The very predictability toward which science strives denies individual autonomy, while ignoring the extent to which such a condition commonly indicates the existence of severe pathology. Further, the desacralizing of science has resulted in “the banishment of all the experiences of transcendence from the realm of the respectably known and the respectably knowable” (Maslow, 1966b, p. 121).
In illustration of the foregoing, Maslow pointed out that self-actualizing people redefine words such as knowledge, determinism, truth, and control into both higher and lower meanings (Maslow, 1965). In keeping with this and arguing for a more inclusive and humanistic science, he examined the concept of control within the broader realm of human experience and identified it as potentially synergic with impulse, in which the goal of self-knowledge and inner-determination is closer to freedom than to suppressive self- control (Maslow, 1966b); he further noted that self-knowledge decreases external controls while increasing internal control, identifying surrender to the real self as entailing a transcendence of the dichotomies of freedom and determinism, which the present model of science does not address. Although identifying scientific work as a potential path to self- actualization, he pointed out that it can serve as a defense, and while “a kind of bomb- shelter against the vicissitudes of living among people” (Maslow, 1965, p. 222), it would “be tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail” (Maslow, 1966b, p. 16). His own mode of inquiry was essentially phenomenological.
Maslow’s atheism did not preclude his identifying the potentially positive impetus of religion, or his giving credence to the higher nature of the human being. In his journals, he expressed desire to “save everything worth saving in religion, everything real and true” (Maslow, 1979, p. 6). Differentiating between those plated with piety and those alloyed with it, he decried ceremonies and lighting candles, along with other historical accretions (Maslow, 1979), having observed that being religious in “only one part of life served to secularize the rest of it” (Maslow, 1970b, p. 31). In his early work, Maslow identified traditional value systems as failures and argued for a new system to believe in because the values are true, rather than due to exhortations to “believe and have faith” (Maslow, 1959, p. viii). His later writings extensively expressed his views on values of being, or B-values, to which he ascribed numerous definitions including “the far goals and the expression of some kinds of religion; the characteristics of the ideally good environment and of the ideally good society” (Maslow, 1962b, p. 54). Maslow did not believe that such values are the rightful property of churches or that the individual could rely on tradition or cultural habit to determine them; rather, he regarded these values as being rooted in human nature.
Contending that dichotomizing pathologizes and pathology dichotomizes, the author noted that the separation between science and religion significantly limited both and stated that the “splitting off of mutually exclusive jurisdictions must produce cripple-science and cripple-religion, cripple-facts and cripple-values” (Maslow, 1970b, p. 17). He believed that an expanded science should carefully examine core-religious or transcendent experiences, given the seeming antagonism of the churches to the very experiences upon which they were originally based. Maslow’s non-theistic views were necessarily ones that, likening the transcendent experiences of the person to that of the prophets, did not regard the latter as functioning as an intermediary between individual and God, for the purpose of transmission of a covenant and divine guidance. Rather, he believed that religion is dead (Maslow, 1979) and that identification of the most fully-functioning, self-actualized individuals would provide models for the further development of mankind (Maslow, 1970a).
In his conceptualization of human health and sickness, Maslow’s basic assumptions were that the individual has an essentially unchangeable inner nature, part of which is species-wide and part of which is unique to the person (Maslow, 1968b). It was his contention that this inner nature is not intrinsically evil, but that it is neutral or good, and further, that human happiness emerges from its growth, while illness results from its repression or suppression (Maslow, 1968b). In essence, he believed that human nature has been sold short, and that experiences of deprivation, frustration, tragedy, and pain are ones through which the development of the person’s inner nature is both facilitated and fulfilled. Maslow did not deny that growth and improvement can emerge from experience of pain and conflict; rather, his more existential perspective inclined him to borrow the term “accidie” from theology to describe the individual’s failure to do with one’s life all that he or she is capable of doing and becoming (Maslow, 1968b), while his explication of the “Jonah complex” (Maslow, 1973, p. 35) recognized the existential anxiety associated with meeting the call to one’s own greatness. Of human development, he (1972) stated:
Human life will never be understood unless its highest aspirations are taken into account. Growth, self-actualization, the striving toward health, the quest for identity and autonomy, the yearning for excellence (and other ways of phrasing the striving “upward”) must now be accepted beyond question as a widespread and perhaps universal tendency. And yet there are also other regressive, fearful, self-diminishing tendencies as well, and it is very easy to forget them in our intoxications with “personal growth”....We must appreciate that many people choose the worse rather than the better, that growth is often a painful process and may for this reason be shunned, that we are afraid of our own best possibilities in addition to loving them, and that we are all of us profoundly ambivalent about truth, beauty, virtue, loving them and fearing them too (pp. 12-3).
Self-actualization, a term first used by Kurt Goldstein, is one that Maslow adopted to define the experiential life process of the individual who has met basic needs (e.g., physical, safety, love, belonging, esteem), also termed deficiency needs or D-needs, and whose subsequent focus has turned to developing innate potentialities and becoming “fully human” (Maslow, 1970a, p. 95). The author viewed the D-needs as ones that take precedence over the higher B-needs, identifying humanity as essentially developing in a linear process. Although he indicated that this development is a general trend, Maslow did not exclude the possibility that individuals whose D-needs have not been met may actually aspire to higher needs (Maslow, 1973); however, the author generally regarded human needs as being addressed in a hierarchical manner, with the frustration of the lower needs resulting in the development of the psychopathologies that current psychoanalytic psychologists both describe and address. Maslow’s investigations were confined to older individuals, and he disclaimed knowledge of what self-actualization might mean in other cultures (Maslow, 1973).
According to Maslow, the process of self-actualization is one in which the individual is able to turn to his or her intrinsic nature and capacities, identify strengths and interests, and further his or her own development within both intrapersonal and interpersonal contexts. He placed emphasis on self-actualization as making real what the person actually is, albeit in potential form; it is a process of intrinsic growth not motivated by deficiency or D-needs (Maslow, 1970a). This process emerges as a result of involvement “in a cause outside their own skin, in something outside of themselves” (Maslow, 1973, p. 43) through which the individual develops his or her potentialities. Maslow further stated that the trajectory of the self-actualizing person is directed toward the B-values and that for these individuals, “motivation is just character growth, character expression, maturation and development” (Maslow, 1970a, p. 159).
As outlined by Jourard (1974), some of the traits characterizing the self-actualizing person include, but are not limited to, the following: a more adequate perception of and comfortable relations with reality; a high degree of acceptance of themselves, of others, and of the realities of human nature; spontaneity; problem-centeredness rather than ego- centeredness; a need for privacy; a high degree of autonomy; a continued freshness of appreciation of the goods of life; frequent mystical experiences; Gemeinschaftsgefühl or feeling of belonging to all mankind; close relationships with a few friends or loved ones; democratic character structures; unhostile senses of humor; a strong ethical sense; creativity; and a resistance to enculturation that permits perceptions of cultural inconsistencies and unfairness.
Being-Values and Needs
Maslow generally identified fourteen B-values toward which the self-actualizing person strives, although he acknowledged in his journal that there may be a greater number (Maslow, 1979). It was his view that preference for the B-values increases with the psychological health of the chooser, as well as with the synergy of the environment (Maslow, 1973). Further, the B-values are descriptions of the world perceived in mystical or peak experiences, a unitive consciousness that includes the self. Maslow stated that peak experiences could meaningfully replace “the immature concepts in which Heaven is like a country club in some specific place, perhaps above the clouds” (Maslow, 1962a, p. 18). Within such experiences, where B-values are perceptions of aspects of reality, the cognizer is without need to “desacralize as a defense” (Maslow, 1965, p. 223) against emotions of humility, wonder, and awe.
The B-values that the author identified were as follows: truth; goodness; beauty; wholeness; dichotomy-transcendence; aliveness; uniqueness; perfection; necessity; completion; justice; order; simplicity; richness; effortlessness; playfulness; and self- sufficiency. As previously stated, Maslow indicated that the B-values are “attributes or characteristics of the deepest, most essential, most intrinsic human nature” (Maslow, 1973, p. 139). As such, the B-values are characteristics of perfection and the ends of life, that may be defined in terms of each other (Maslow, 1979, 1963, 1970b).
According to Maslow, the B-values behave like needs, which he termed “meta-needs” (Bugental, 1967, p. 281). Just as deprivation and frustration of the D-needs breed psychopathology, the author postulated that deprivation of the meta-needs creates meta- pathologies, “the sicknesses of the soul which come, for example, from living among liars all the time and not trusting anyone” (Bugental, 1967, p. 281), elsewhere noting that these pathologies have been variously referred to as “spiritual, philosophical or existential ailments” (Maslow, 1969, p. 733). Maslow believed that the deprivation of such qualities as justice, truth, order, and goodness causes higher illnesses than neuroses, which result from deprivation of basic needs for security, love, and self-esteem (Maslow, 1966a, p. 112). For example, potential metapathologies emerging from injustice include insecurity, anger, cynicism, mistrust, lawlessness, a jungle world-view, and total selfishness (Maslow, 1969).
Maslow regarded human needs as biologically based, or “instinctoid”, arguing that the absence of such an instinct in an animal is not proof of its noninstinctive nature in a human being (Maslow, 1970a). He believed that error overemphasizes humanity’s continuity with the animal world, largely caused by an underemphasis on the enormous differences between the human species and others. Maslow also identified hostility and aggression as being primarily reactive or defensive, rather than instinctive (Maslow, 1970a). In this connection, he noted a marked change in the quality of aggression as one moves from psychological immaturity toward self-actualization. Meanness or cruelty found in undeveloped, neurotic, or immature individuals changes into “righteous indignation and self-affirmation, resistance to exploitation and domination, passion for justice, etc.” (Maslow, 1968a, p. 147) in the psychologically healthy person. He suggested that one aspect of psychopathology in individuals might be found in the absence of righteous indignation in response to evil (Maslow, 1963). He later wrote that “it seems quite clear that personality problems may sometimes be loud protests against the crushing of one’s psychological bones, of one’s true inner nature” (Maslow, 1968, p. 8).
The lower and higher needs Maslow identified as having a hierarchy, based on what he termed “the principle of relative potency” (Maslow, 1970a, p. 97). Attributing the following characteristics to the higher needs, the author clearly indicated the relatively greater strength of physiological and safety needs compared to those of love, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization (Maslow, 1970a). Maslow regarded the higher needs as reflecting a later evolutionary and ontogenetic development, less important for survival and less subjectively urgent while more gratifying.
His schema identified higher needs as functioning at a higher level of biological efficiency, given the potentially adverse somatic consequences of psychopathology. The pursuit of these needs he saw as a healthy trend. Maslow contended that higher needs have more preconditions due to the existence of lower needs, and further, that better environmental conditions are required for their fulfillment. He believed that those who have experienced the satisfaction of both needs will prefer satisfaction of the higher need, despite deprivation and sacrifice, and that there is a greater degree of love identification at a higher need level, in which the other’s need becomes one’s own. Having contended that the motivation of the individual toward the acquisition of B-values and his or her identification with the highest values in the outer world result in a transcendence of the distinction between the self and not-self (Maslow, 1969), Maslow regarded the pursuit of higher needs to have positive social consequences, while leading to greater individualism and self-actualization.
The Good Society
While in agreement with Aristotle that a good life requires living in accordance with the individual’s true nature, Maslow (1970a) argued that Aristotle simply did not know enough about it to prevent him from developing a static conception, deriving incorrect inferences from a society that condoned slavery. Contrasting Aristotelian theory and modern conceptions, Maslow stated that the essential difference rests not only with the present greater understanding of the person, but in a fuller appreciation of his or her potentialities. He regarded psychological Utopia, in which all are psychologically healthy, as one that would “tend to be more Taoistic, nonintrusive, and basic need-gratifying” (Maslow, 1970a, p. 278). He envisioned a less controlling environment in which healthy individuals are able to exercise more freedom of choice, in keeping with his conviction that the person’s true nature would incline him or her toward self-actualization.
Noting that a good environment fosters good personalities, and identifying the better culture as one that both gratifies basic needs and permits self-actualization (Maslow, 1968), Maslow further stated that “the definition of good environment has to change markedly to stress spiritual and psychological as well as material and economic forces” (Maslow, 1970a, p. 279). Defining the self-actualizing person as the Good Person and identifying the Good Society as “ultimately one species, one world” (Maslow, 1973, p. 19), he argued that it is impossible to achieve one without the other, noting the existence of a feedback loop between them. Similarly, his journals reflected his belief that the process of individual betterment has to occur in tandem with societal betterment (Maslow, 1979).
Consistently identifying the B-value of the transcendence of dichotomies, and drawing on a social concept developed by Ruth Benedict, Maslow examined the application of the principle of synergy to the interaction of the individual and society. He (1964) stated:
Those societies have high synergy in which the social institutions are set up so as to transcend the polarity between selfishness and unselfishness, between self-interest and altruism, in which the person who is simply being selfish necessarily benefits other people, and in which the person who tries to be beneficial to others necessarily reaps rewards for himself. The society with high synergy is one in which virtue pays (Maslow, p. 156).
The individual in a high synergy society is markedly
different from the psychologically insecure authoritarian
personality, whose jungle world-view results in a misperception
that there is constant threat from the prospect of
being eaten and consequent aggressive response to ward
off the possibility, furthering a process in which
kindness is misidentified as weakness and existence
degenerates into a zero-sum game of exploitation revolving
around security needs (Maslow, 1943). Rather, with
regard to functioning within society, the self-actualizing
person has both a democratic character structure and
Gemeinschaftsgefühl; through these and other
B-values, there is a fusion between the desires
for what is good for the self and for what is good
for others (Maslow, 1964).
The voluminous writings of psychoanalyst Carl Jung provided a comprehensive theory of personality, detailing a conceptualization of the human psyche that has both conscious and unconscious components, as well as inner dynamics that can function within a realm of collective knowledge, utilize symbolism and dreams, and engage in a developmental process directed toward individuation and self-realization over the course of the life-span. The author’s wide-ranging works explored numerous subjects, including religion, philosophy, anthropology, mythology, alchemy, and parapsychology, which he brought to bear upon his personality theory and psychotherapy. In this connection, Jung (1963) stated:
My life has been permeated and held together by one idea and one goal: namely, to penetrate the secret of personality. Everything can be explained from this central point, and all my works relate to this one theme. (p. 206)
While primarily developed in conjunction with clinical work to address neurotic conditions, Jung’s writings included a definition of mental health; the author would later be regarded as “a world authority on the psychology of the abnormal and normal individual” (Rychlak, 1981, p. 177) whose efforts with respect to the latter enriched the human potential movement in the United States (Jourard, 1974).
Early in his career, Carl Jung’s evolving views on the nature and functioning of the human psyche departed radically from those of Sigmund Freud, who had placed the sexual drive as central to his own theory and determined to make of it “a bulwark against the black tide of mud” (Jung, 1963, p. 150) of occultism, an appellation that included religion. Jung subsequently argued against a conceptualization of the person and psyche derived primarily from the study of defects and pathology. He saw no more reason to have a psychology of sex than a psychology of nutrition, in view of the undoubted priority of primitive man to find food, and further identified Freud’s position as a reflection of his own psychic makeup (McGuire and Hull, 1977).
Although Jung gave credence to the utility of Freudian drive theory with respect to sexual perversity, he did not regard all neurosis as representing a distorted, infantile wish- fulfilment in the individual. He (1964) decried the misattribution of unnatural obscenities and ulterior motives to decent people, identifying the practice as indicative of the adolescent nature of the mentation of the clinician. Further, the author regarded what he identified as a pathological exaggeration of the importance of sex as being symptomatic of the spiritual imbalance of contemporary society (1954a).
Jung disagreed with Freud’s contention that religion amounts to the expression of repressed sexuality in the individual, observing the latter’s inability to understand the direct religious experience that engenders faith, as distinguished from possession of unreflecting belief (Jung, 1963, 1933, 1990). Of his personal views concerning the existence of God, Jung (1977) stated:
All that I have learned has led me step by step to an unshakable conviction of the existence of God. I only believe in what I know. And that eliminates believing. Therefore I do not take His existence on belief--I know that He exists. (p. 251)
Regarding religion as “one of the earliest and most universal activities of the human mind” (Jung, 1938, p. 1) and as an “instinctive attitude peculiar to man” (Jung, 1990, p. 15), the author studied primitive and contemporary religious systems as expressions of the human psyche, a perspective that placed emphasis on the origin of religious experience as being within the person, as opposed to that resulting from Divine revelation mediated by prophets and external to the psyche. With a similar frame of reference, Jung also examined alchemy, identifying its symbolism as expressive of the evolution of consciousness, the individuation process (Jung, 1980).
While noting that the religious person is used “to not being sole master in his own house” (Jung, 1990, p. 48) in reference to God’s will and the influence of the unconscious, the author distinguished religion from creed, identifying one of the functions of the former as being a “counterbalance to mass-mindedness” (Jung, 1990, p. 12) characterized by blind imitation. Jung (1964) stated:
Religions are psychotherapeutic systems in the truest sense of the word, and on the grandest scale. They express the whole range of the psychic problem in mighty images; they are the avowal and recognition of the soul, and at the same time the revelation of the soul’s nature. From this universal foundation no human soul is cut off; only the individual consciousness that has lost its connection with the psychic totality remains caught in the illusion that the soul is a small circumscribed area, a fit subject for “scientific” theorizing. The loss of this relationship is the prime evil of neurosis, and that is why the neurotic loses his way among ever more tortuous back- streets of dubious repute, because he who denies the great must blame the petty. (p. 172)
The author did not exclude religion as a potential factor in the etiology of neurosis; rather, he believed that some neuroses derive from ignoring religious promptings, as well as the individual’s failing to find an adequate vehicle for his or her highest aspirations (1933, 1985). Of the individual’s religious experience, Jung (1985) stated:
Religions are great healing systems for the ills of the soul. Neurosis and similar illnesses arise, one and all, from psychic complications. But once a dogma is disputed and questioned, it has lost its healing power. A person who no longer believes that a God who knows suffering will have mercy on him, will help him and comfort him and give his life meaning, is weak and a prey to his own weaknesses and becomes neurotic. (p. 327)
While Jung regarded neurosis as primarily a problem of adaption and identified psychoanalysis as “a means of removing stones from the path of development” (Jung, 1985, p. 278), he at one point noted that a third of his clients did not manifest any clinically definable neurosis; rather, they suffered from “the senselessness and emptiness of their lives” (1933, p. 61), which he considered to be a condition of the times. To the theorist, the concept of adaption, like that of normality, carried a connotation of “average” that he did not intend. On this subject, Jung (1933) argued:
To be “normal” is a splendid ideal for the unsuccessful, for all those who have not yet found an adaption. But for people who have far more ability than the average, for whom it was never hard to gain successes and to accomplish their share of the world’s work--for them restriction to the normal signifies the bed of Procrustes, unbearable boredom, infernal sterility and hopelessness. As a consequence there are many people who become neurotic because they are only normal, as there are people who are neurotic because they cannot become normal. For the former, the very thought that you want to educate them to normality is a nightmare; their deepest need is really to be able to lead “abnormal” lives. (p. 48)
Jung’s concept of individuation, a natural process in which the individual develops his or her own inherent potentialities, represents a trajectory of development of the psyche toward a fuller expression of an innate, if previously obscured, state of wholeness. The Jungian typology of the psyche, including his conceptualization of the unconscious, the ego, persona, instincts, and archetypes, is necessary to an understanding of this concept, while the author’s perspective on development shed further light on his views of human nature.
Consciousness and the Ego
As noted by Hall and Nordby (1973), consciousness is the only part of the psyche known to the individual; it is generally referred to as cognitive awareness. To Jung, the conscious is that part of the mind that is under the control of the ego (Mattoon, 1981). With regard to this part of the psyche, Jung (1973) stated:
For indeed our consciousness does not create itself--it wells up from unknown depths. In childhood it awakens gradually, and all through life it wakes each morning out of the depths of sleep from an unconsciousness. It is like a child that is born daily out of the primordial womb of the unconscious....It is not only influenced by the unconscious but continually emerges out of it in the form of numberless spontaneous ideas and sudden flashes of thought. (pp. 569-70)
Conscious awareness grows through the use of four functions, namely, thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation; the orientation of the conscious mind is determined by attitudes of introversion and extroversion (Hall and Nordby, 1973). According to Mattoon (1981), in Jungian psychology, the ego is the center of consciousness, as distinguished from the self, which is the center of the whole personality, which includes the unconscious. With respect to self-knowledge and the ego, Jung (1990) stated:
Anyone who has any ego-consciousness at all takes for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents. People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them. In this respect the psyche behaves like the body, of whose physiological and anatomical structure the average person knows very little. (p. 5)
Although concurring with Freud with respect to the existence and basic functioning of particular psychic mechanisms, such as repression and suppression, Jung did not regard the unconscious as a limited repository, largely comprised of emotionally objectionable material, but as vast, inexhaustible, and inclusive of contents that could become conscious (Mattoon, 1981; Sharp, 1991). Writing of the general characteristics of the unconscious, Jung (1960) stated:
So defined, the unconscious depicts an extremely fluid state of affairs; everything of which I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the future things that take shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness; all this is the content of the unconscious. (p. 95)
The author identified the human psyche as having a personal unconscious and a collective unconscious, in addition to normal waking consciousness.
Jung’s theoretical position with regard to the existence of the collective unconscious represented his most significant departure from Freud’s views concerning the structure of the psyche and the fundamental character of human nature. In postulating this early, phylogenetically old substratum of the unconscious, Jung placed the psyche within the context of an evolutionary process, connecting a person not only with his or her own personal infancy, but with that of the species (Hall and Nordby, 1973). He regarded the collective unconscious as “a certain psychic dimension shaped by the forces of heredity” (Jung, 1933, p. 165) comprised of instincts, mythological images, and primordial motifs, essentially a shared and universal dimension of the psyche in which time and space are relative having a vastness comparable to the outer realm, from which consciousness has developed (Jung, 1963, 1933). Jung’s (1971) various definitions of the collective unconsciousness included the following:
The collective unconscious contains the whole spiritual heritage of mankind’s evolution, born anew in the brain structure of every individual. His conscious mind is an ephemeral phenomenon that accomplishes all provisional adaptions and orientations, for which reason one can best compare its function to orientation in space. The unconscious, on the other hand, is the source of instinctual forces of the psyche and of the forms or categories that regulate them, namely the archetypes. All the most powerful ideas in history go back to archetypes. This is particularly true of religious ideas, but the central concepts of science, philosophy, and ethics are no exception to this rule. In their present form they are variants of archetypal ideas, created by consciously applying and adapting these ideas to reality. For it is the function of consciousness not only to recognize and assimilate the external world through the gateway of the senses, but to translate into visible reality the world within us. (pp. 45-6)
Among the implications of Jung’s Darwinian-Lamarckian views, in which he endorsed the basic concept of “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” (Rychlak, 1981, p. 65) and its assumption that Homo sapiens emerged from an animal ancestry, is that there has been an evolution of the human psyche paralleling that of the biological being, involving development of the personal unconscious and consciousness. In this connection, as noted by Progoff (1973), Jung identified the social quality of the individual as inherent in human nature and identified society as his or her primary reality; in this schema, Homo sapiens emerged from the collective through a process of individualization and differentiation. As such, his position represented a reversal of efforts to make extrapolations about societal functioning from knowledge of individual functioning, and was at variance with Freudian perspectives that counterposed biology and society and identified the requirements for existence in the latter as inhibitors of growth (Progoff, 1973). Rather, with respect to the instincts and the development of civilization, Jung (1933) stated:
It is the growth of civilization that we must thank for the existence of problems; they are the dubious gifts of civilization. It is just man’s turning away from instinct--his opposing himself to instinct--that creates consciousness. Instinct is nature and seeks to perpetuate nature; while consciousness can only seek culture or its denial. (p. 96)
Instincts and Archetypes
Although Jung indicated that instincts were beyond his understanding, he regarded them as being both psychological and physiological, and identified instinctive factors in creativity, reflection, activity, as well as in hunger and sexuality (Jung, 1954b, 1960; Sharp, 1991). He viewed instincts as having aspects of dynamism and compulsion, as well as meaning and intention (Jung, 1990). Bringing these components to bear upon the psychotherapeutic process, Jung (1954b) stated:
Instinct is not an isolated thing, nor can it be isolated in practice. It always brings in its train archetypal contents of a spiritual nature, which are at once its foundation and its limitation. In other words, an instinct is always and inevitably coupled with something like a philosophy of life, however archaic, unclear, and hazy this may be. Instinct stimulates thought, and if man does not think of his own free will, then you get compulsive thinking, for the two poles of the psyche, the physiological and the mental, are indissolubly connected. For this reason instinct cannot be freed without freeing the mind, just as mind divorced from instinct is condemned to futility. Not that the tie between mind and instinct is necessarily a harmonious one. On the contrary it is full of conflict and means suffering. Therefore the principal aim of psychotherapy is not to transport the patient to an impossible state of happiness, but to help him to acquire steadfastness and philosophic patience in the face of suffering. (p. 81)
Archetypes are the primordial, structural elements of the human psyche; they are the primary forms, images, and motifs through which instincts are expressed. Jung identified archetypes as being both individual and collective, as characteristic of the personal and societal. It is to the collective unconscious that the author attributed the archetypal images that are the basic content of religions, mythologies, legends, and fairytales (Sharp, 1991). As readily found in his collected works, Jung’s exhaustive study of mythology, symbolism, and dreams, as well as his examination of these representations of the psyche within the context of psychotherapy, reflected his identification of the archetype as a dynamism having repercussions in both individual and societal processes.
Noting the affinity of the archetype with instinct, the author regarded the former as representing the element of the spirit, a term expressing a psychological rather than theological concept and implying a higher consciousness (Jung, 1960). In this connection, Jung (1960) further stated:
Archetype and instinct are the most polar opposites imaginable, as can easily be seen when one compares a man who is ruled by his instinctual drives with one who is seized by the spirit. But, just as between all opposites there obtains so close a bond that no position can be established or even thought of without its corresponding negation, so in this case also “les extrêmes se touchent.” They belong together as correspondences, which is not to say that the one is derivable from the other, but that they subsist side by side as reflections in our minds of the opposition that underlies all psychic energy....So regarded, psychic processes seem to be balances of energy flowing between spirit and instinct, though the question of whether a process is to be described as spiritual or instinctual remains shrouded in darkness. Such evaluation or interpretation depends entirely upon the standpoint or state of the conscious mind. (pp. 116-7)
Jung identified numerous archetypes, including the persona, anima, animus, and the shadow, as well as images from mythology and religion.
The persona, as defined by authors Hall and Nordby (1973), is the conformity archetype; just as a mask presents a particular face to the public, the persona enables the individual to conform to demands of social circumstances, at the risk of the ego’s identification with it in an inflated state and consequent psychopathology: e.g., megalomania. Not only does the individual have a persona, to which Jung referred as the “outer face” (Hall and Nordby, 1973, p. 46); the person also has an inner face. In this connection, the anima is the inner, feminine side of a male, while the animus is the inner, masculine side of a female. Jung regarded the shadow archetype as the hidden or unconscious aspect of the individual, having qualities of both good and bad. The shadow includes that which has dropped out of or never reached consciousness, and constitutes a moral problem insofar as it challenges the ego to recognize the dark aspects of the personality, “the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge” (Jung, 1959, p. 8). Hall and Nordby (1973) noted other Jungian archetypes as birth, death, power, magic, the hero, God, the demon, the wise old man, as well as numerous natural objects.
Individuation and the Self
The psychological development of the person extends throughout the life-span, which Jung divided into the four stages of childhood, youth, middle age, and old age. It was theorist’s contention that humans begin life in a state of undifferentiated wholeness (Hall and Nordby, 1973), and that the infant is anything but a tabula rosa. However, given the developmental life tasks of the person during the first two stages, Jung (1966) regarded the second half of life as placing greater emphasis on the process of individuation, which he defined as follows:
Individuation means becoming a single, homogeneous being, and, insofar as “individuality” embraces our innermost, last and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as “coming to selfhood” or “self-realization”. (p. 171)
As noted by Rychlak (1981), Jung’s definition of individuation is in keeping with a perspective of life that is teleological, having as its ultimate goal the emergence of a total individuality or selfhood; essentially consistent with Aristotelean entelechy, the author stated that it is “what makes a tree turn into a tree” (McGuire and Hull, 1977, p. 210). Although individuation occurs in a largely unconscious manner, consciousness can serve to thwart individuation by not attending to what is emerging from the unconscious. The process can be aided by psychoanalysis through conscious experience, such as in the examination of dream material or creative artistic works. As noted by Hall and Nordby (1973), psychotherapy is primarily an individuation process, further stating that:
Only by becoming conscious can a system of personality proceed to individuate. Presumably, this is, or should be, the ultimate goal of education, to make conscious that which is unconscious. Education, as the etymology of the word indicates, is a drawing out from the person of something that is already there in a nascent state, and not the filling up of an empty container with knowledge. (p. 83)
The process of synthesizing aspects of the conscious and the unconscious results in the development of the ego. According to Jacobi (1965), among the early tasks in the individuation process is the recognition of the shadow archetype within the personality, as essential to the strengthening of the ego for its role in the expansion of consciousness and encounter with the self, an infinitely larger “unconscious prefiguration of the ego” (Jung, 1973, p. 269). In keeping with this, Jung indicated that recognition of the dark aspects of the personality requires the moral effort of self-criticism, including grappling with projections that “change the world into the replica of one’s unknown face” (Jung, 1959, p. 9). Similarly, confrontation of one’s contrasexual traits through encounter with the anima and animus, recognition of the projection of these traits onto others, separation of that which is individual from that which belongs to the collective psyche and the external collective situation are also critical to psychological development (Jacobi, 1967).
The individuation process is thus largely one of integrating conscious and unconscious contents, contending with polarities inherent in the psychological make-up through the transcendent function, defined as an inherent capacity of the organism for integration and
development of selfhood (Hall and Nordby, 1973), as well as clearly differentiating one’s true essence from the persona required by society. According to Jung, the process of psychic development is not linear, but labyrinthine, and as such, it is a path that includes making mistakes (Jung, 1963). However, of the new level of consciousness thus attained, Jung (1970) stated:
What, on a lower level, had led to the wildest conflicts and to panicky outbursts of emotion, now looks like a storm in the valley seen from the mountain top. This does not mean that the storm is robbed of its reality, but instead of being in it one is above it. (p. 15)
Through this process, the center of the maturing, total personality ceases to coincide with the ego, for the emerging self assumes this position in the structure of the psyche. While the hypothesized characteristics of the self have been subject to considerable examination, Jung did not identify a difference between this psychological reality and the concept of the supreme deity; he stated simply that the self is a psychological concept that represents an unknowable essence and “might equally well be called ‘the God within us’” (Jung, 1966, p. 238). Of the God-image archetype, he stated that one could explain it as “a reflection of the self, or, conversely, explain the self as an imago Dei in man” (Jung, 1973, p. 190).
Jung was careful to distinguish the concept of individuation from that of an egotistical individuality and noted the psychological pitfalls of an inflated ego; the process of achieving wholeness of the psyche is neither autoerotic nor selfish. While clearly indicating that a certain isolation is fundamental to the process of defining oneself, as contrasted with determining one’s identity and course of action through blind imitation and mere convention, the author stated that “individuation does not shut one out from the world, but gathers the world to itself” and that “as the individual is not just a single, separate being, but by his very existence presupposes a collective relationship, it follows that the process of individuation must lead to more intense and broader collective relationships and not to isolation” (Jung, 1976, p. 448). Of the individuation process, as an effort toward completion in the absence of the possibility of attaining perfection,
Jung (1959) further stated that “to strive after teleiosis (J,8,TF4l)...is not only legitimate but is inborn in man as a peculiarity which provides civilization with one of its strongest roots” (p. 69).
Individuation and Society
Jung experienced significant disillusionment following World War II and wrote extensively about its atrocities, which he regarded as reflective of a massive change of psychic forces in the collective unconscious. Having identified the purpose of existence as that of “kindling a light in the darkness of being” (Jung, 1963, p. 326) while affirming the continuity of the psyche in an existence beyond earthly constraints of time and space, the author wrote of the dual nature of the person and grappled with the concept of evil, which he saw as functioning within both the individual and collective psyche. In an interview, Jung (McGuire and Hull, 1977) expressed his contention that:
We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is in man himself. He is the real danger, and we are pitifully unaware of it. We know nothing of man, far too little. His psyche should be studied, because we are the origin of all coming evil. (p. 436)
The world situation, exacerbated by more technologically effective means for expressing evil, inclined him to note the need for a world-wide consciousness and the spiritual transformation of mankind (Jung, 1990). In the absence of literal belief in a redeemer, regarding the process of change in the individual as pivotal to societal change, Jung (1964) wrote:
The great events of world history are, at bottom, profoundly unimportant. In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual. This alone makes history, here alone do the great transformations take place, and the whole future, the whole history of the world, ultimately spring as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources in individuals. In our most private and most subjective lives we are not only
the passive witnesses of our age, and its sufferers, but also its makers. (p. 149)
Predicting a time in which the need for mutual
understanding would become more acute, the author reiterated
the need for regeneration of the individual, to promote
regeneration of a society sickened by moral complacency
and lack of responsibility. Jung regarded the process
of individuation as being essential to this development.
Although the author stated that “our world has shrunk,
and it is dawning on us that humanity is one,
with one psyche” (Jung, 1964, p. 410), Jung’s
perspective of a war-torn planet subjected to forces
of the collective unconscious, as well as to the conflicting
interests and ideologies productive of an unthinking
mass-mindedness, appears to have discouraged him from
envisioning the development of a highly evolved collective
Bahá’u’lláh: Spiritual Development
Originally of Persian nobility, Bahá’u’lláh was a prisoner and exile of the Ottoman empire for a period of forty years, enduring successive banishments from His homeland and ultimate imprisonment in the fortress city of ‘Akká, for having made claim to being recipient of a revelation from God. Denying the role of personal volition in His assumption of prophetic office, as well as for the words which streamed from His pen,
Bahá’u’lláh (1971a) acknowledged that “the learning current amongst men I studied not; their schools I entered not” (p. 11). As a captive, the prophet of the Bahá’í Faith wrote epistles, commentaries, and tablets, numbering over one hundred volumes (Shoghi Effendi, 1974a). Of the nature and purpose of His imprisonment and revelation, Bahá’u’lláh (1971b) stated:
The Ancient Beauty hath consented to be bound with chains that mankind may be released from its bondage, and hath accepted to be made a prisoner within this most mighty Stronghold that the whole world may attain unto true liberty. He hath drained to its dregs the cup of sorrow, that all the peoples of the earth may attain unto abiding joy, and be filled with gladness.... We have accepted to be abased, O believers in the Unity of God, that ye may be exalted, and have suffered manifold afflictions, that ye might prosper and flourish. (p. 99)
Bahá’u’lláh was accompanied in exile from Persia by members of His family. ‘Abdu’l- Bahá, who shared His Father’s imprisonment, was later appointed by Bahá’u’lláh as center of the Covenant, authorized interpreter of the Bahá’í Writings, and exemplar of its teachings; his writings are also identified as Sacred Scripture. It is from the translated portion of this wide-ranging body of literature, revealed for the generality of humanity for the purpose of spiritual regeneration of both individual and society, that we can derive a preliminary Bahá’í concept of the healthy personality.
As we might expect of a shift to theological conceptualizations from those developed by psychology, the existence of God cannot be dismissed as an infantile, neurotic father- fixation, nor does the capacity to love and work, while expressive of animating forces in the realm of creation and communion in relationship to the Divine Essence, suffice to define well-being. Rather, the individual’s orientation to person, place, and time, measured by psychological mental status examination, broadens to include the spiritual dimension of existence, as well as that of a fourth orientation of purpose. Knowledge of the self in relationship to God, recognition of the world as a workshop for spiritual growth, and awareness of temporal constraints for achieving development in the contingent world through cognizance of timelessness and immortality, become primary measures of healthy orientation in the individual, who identifies the purpose of existence as that of achieving nearness to God while advancing the civilization that serves as a matrix for growth.
Within the context of the Bahá’í Writings, a distinction exists between the unchangeable, God-given inner aspect of a person identified as individuality, and the personality shaped through education and training. As noted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1913), “personality has no element of permanence in it; it is a shifting, changeable quality in man which can be turned either way” (p. 39). A Bahá’í concept of the healthy personality must therefore primarily derive with reference to the religion’s teachings concerning human nature and development, with respect to the soul, mind, and spirit.
The Writings of the Bahá’í Faith identify the individual as a member of a distinct species that has physically, intellectually and spiritually evolved over the course of ages,
gradually assuming its present form and capacities. This view of humanity’s evolution, while recognizing the morphological changes of the species, maintains that Homo sapiens has not emerged from a related animal species, but has always had characteristics unique to the human being (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982b). These attributes include more extensive powers of intellect, reasoning, and memory, as well as spiritual capacities of which the animal is bereft. Although the implications of modification of Darwinian theory are beyond the scope of the present work, the Bahá’í perspective of phylogeny does not circumscribe the definition of human being to that of a somewhat evolved animal; rather, it highlights the need for reexamination of the unique faculties that shape definitions of human nature, reality, and mental health.
In numerous expositions concerning the kingdoms of phenomenal existence, ‘Abdu’l- Bahá (1982a, 1982b) pointed out that the human being is the culmination of creation, incorporating the characteristics of the mineral, plant, and animal. While noting that Homo sapiens has physical powers and senses in common with the animal, he further identified the individual as possessing a spirit (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982a). In distinguishing humanity from lower kingdoms, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982a) stated:
the mineral kingdom, no matter how much it may advance, can never comprehend the phenomena of the vegetable kingdom. Whatever development the vegetable may attain, it can have no message from nor come in touch with the kingdom of the animal....Likewise, no matter how great the advancement of the animal, it can have no idea of the human plane, no knowledge of intellect and spirit. Difference in degree is an obstacle to this comprehension. (p. 114)
While affirming that human faculties will continue to develop, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982a) stated that the inability of the lower plane to understand that which is above it also applies with respect to human comprehension of God; the failure of a flower to understand an animal is not proof of the latter’s non-existence, but of the state of ignorance of the former. Therefore, according to the Bahá’í perspective, humanity remains in need of a Prophet to foster development of the spiritual capacities unique to the species, including apprehension of the purpose of existence, while recognizing that comprehension of Divinity is beyond the grasp of the learned.
Although mature contemplation yields to an awareness that human knowledge of the Divine Essence is necessarily limited, the Bahá’í Writings reaffirm that the individual has been created in God’s image (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982a). Of the unique position of the human species within creation, Bahá’u’lláh (1971b) stated:
Having created the world and all that liveth and moveth therein, He, through the direct operation of His unconstrained and sovereign Will, chose to confer upon man the unique distinction and capacity to know Him and to love Him--a capacity that must needs be regarded as the generating impulse and the primary purpose underlying the whole of creation....Upon the inmost reality of each and every created thing He hath shed the light of one of His names, and made it a recipient of the glory of one of His attributes. Upon the reality of man, however, He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. (p. 65)
While the capacity to reflect the attributes of God is latent within the person, its emergence as essential to the individual’s well-being and development (Bahá’u’lláh, 1971b). In a tablet, Bahá’u’lláh (1971b) reaffirmed that “He hath known God who hath known himself” (p. 178); denial of the existence of God represents acknowledgment of a fundamental lack of self-awareness.
The Bahá’í Writings identify human nature as having two aspects, the physical and the divine. Noting that “the inner reality of man is a demarcation line between the shadow and the light” (p. 130), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1978) indicated that the human reality lies between the world of the animal and that of Divinity. The physical aspect of the individual is therefore one subject to nature, while the divine aspect is connected with God (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982a) He (1982a) further differentiated between the lower and higher aspects of the human reality, as follows:
When the animal proclivity in man becomes predominant, he sinks even lower than the brute. When the heavenly powers are triumphant in his nature, he becomes the noblest and most superior being in the world of creation. All the imperfections found in the animal are found in man. In him there is antagonism, hatred and selfish struggle for existence; in his nature lurk jealousy, revenge, ferocity, cunning, hypocrisy, greed, injustice and tyranny. So to speak, man is clad in the outer garment of the animal, the habiliments of the world of nature, the world of darkness, imperfections and unlimited baseness. On the other hand, we find in him justice, sincerity, faithfulness, knowledge, wisdom, illumination, mercy and pity, coupled with intellect, comprehension, power to grasp the realities of things and the ability to penetrate the truths of existence. All these great perfections are to be found in man. Therefore we say that man is a reality which stands between light and darkness. From this standpoint his nature is threefold: animal, human and divine. The animal nature is darkness; the heavenly is light in light. (p. 465)
The nature of the human being includes the potentiality of failure to recognize the divine aspect of its essence or to utilize volition for the development and manifestation of the spiritual virtues and attributes that represent its highest expression in the world of being. Further, the increasingly intensified power of the evolving human intellect can magnify the attributes of the animal nature, so that extreme and negative expressions of the lower aspect of the person are more brutal than those found among a lower species. However, while questions of human nature are not infrequently cast into a framework of good versus evil, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá identified the latter quality as the absence of the former; a patch of ground overgrown with weeds and thorns is merely in a natural, uncultivated state (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982b, 1982a).
‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1978) noted that “every child is potentially the light of the world--and at the same time its darkness” (p. 130). The Bahá’í perspective of human nature thus puts particular emphasis on education, including increasing knowledge of God and fostering of spiritual susceptibilities, identifying the primary purpose of the successive Prophets whom He has sent to humanity as development of the latent potentialities inherent in the individual’s essence. Of this function, generally considered outside of the purview of psychology due to its greater focus on the individual’s lower, physical nature, ‘Abdu’l- Bahá (1982a) stated:
The holy Manifestations of God come into the world to dispel the darkness of the animal, or physical, nature of man, to purify him from his imperfections in order that his heavenly and spiritual nature may become quickened, his divine qualities awakened, his perfections visible, his potential powers revealed and all the virtues of the world of humanity latent within him may come to life. These holy Manifestations of God are the Educators and Trainers of the world of existence, the Teachers of the world of humanity. They liberate man from the darkness of the world of nature, deliver him from despair, error, ignorance, imperfections and all evil qualities. They clothe him in the garment of perfections and exalted virtues. ...Were it not for the coming of these holy Manifestations of God, all mankind would be found on the plane of the animal. (pp. 465-466)
In light of the dual purpose of human existence identified by Bahá’u’lláh, the question of nature versus nurture requires reframing. Recognition of human nature as being comprised of higher and lower selves, and of the individual’s developmental task of subjugating the animalistic self as having the purpose of realization and expression of a higher, true self, necessarily assumes a different and greater significance within a spiritual framework in which the very concept of mortality engenders that of immortality and the temporal world is identified as a workshop.
Soul, Mind, and Spirit
That which set the human being apart from the animal are the functions and capacities of mind and spirit, inherent properties of the soul. Concerning this latter entity, just as the unconscious cannot be fully understood because it is unconscious, the spiritual and immortal nature of the soul places it beyond human understanding. However, the essential relationship between soul, mind, and spirit is explicated in the Bahá’í Writings by ‘Abdu’l- Bahá.
The teachings of the religion offer the analogy that likens the body to a steed, while the soul is the rider (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982a). Connected to the body from the time of conception, like a reflection in a mirror, the soul is linked to the physical form through the mind and functions both with and without the instrumentality of the senses (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1972). In a tablet to August Forel, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1969) wrote that “it is through the power of the soul that the mind comprehendeth, imagineth and exerteth its influence, whilst the soul is a power that is free” (p. 337). Although the soul influences the mind, it remains unaffected by the maladies of physical form (Bahá’u’lláh, 1971b). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982b) provided further description of the mind, as follows:
the mind is the power of the human spirit. Spirit is the lamp; mind is the light which shines from the lamp. Spirit is the tree, and the mind is the fruit. Mind is the perfection of the spirit and its essential quality, as the sun’s rays are the essential necessity of the sun. (p. 209)
According to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1972), “the reality of man is his thought, not his material body” (p. 17). Just as human nature contains aspects of the animal and the divine, the author indicated that human personality can manifest itself as either the image or likeness of God or that of Satan, the latter a figurative term for evil and dark forces, and thus have mentation primarily focused on either the spiritual or material worlds (1972, 1982b). Of the human reality that lies between these aspects, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982b) stated:
It is manifest that beyond this material body, man is endowed with another reality, which is the world of exemplars constituting the heavenly body of man. In speaking, man says, “I saw,” “I spoke,” “I went.” Who is this I? It is obvious that this I is different from this body. It is clear that when man is thinking, it is as though he were consulting with some other person. With whom is he consulting? It is evident that it is another reality, or one aside from this body, with whom he enters into consultation when he thinks, “Shall I do this work or not?” “What will be the result of my doing this?”...And then that reality in man communicates its opinion to him concerning the point at issue. Therefore, that reality in man is clearly and obviously other than his body--an ego with which man enters into consultation and whose opinion man seeks. (p. 464)
Although usages of the term “ego” in the Bahá’í Writings are generally in reference to the lower, egotistical side of the individual’s nature, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also used the term with respect to conversations with the higher self and its connection with the interplay of spiritual forces of higher worlds; in meditation, the individual is speaking with his or her own spirit and may receive bestowals of the Holy Spirit (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1972).
In addition to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s example of the functioning of this reality in a conscious state, Bahá’u’lláh pointed to the phenomenon of dreams to illustrate that the essence of the human reality extends beyond the body and is not limited by the spatial and temporal constraints of the world of matter. He (1991) stated:
One of the created phenomena is the dream. Behold how many secrets are deposited therein, how many wisdoms treasured up, how many worlds concealed. Observe, how thou art asleep in a dwelling, and its doors are barred; on a sudden thou findest thyself in a far-off city, which thou enterest without moving thy feet or wearying thy body; without using thine eyes, thou seest; without taxing thine ears, thou hearest; without a tongue, thou speakest. And perchance when ten years are gone, thou wilt witness in the outer world the very things thou hast dreamed tonight. (p. 32)
While the Bahá’í Writings indicate that dreams may be influenced or distorted by the attitudes and feelings of the dreamer, or be essentially meaningless, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá identified the phenomenon as a sign in humanity of other realities, beyond that which the person experiences in the contingent world. In this connection, Bahá’u’lláh (1971b) stated:
Behold how the thing which thou hast seen in thy dream been identical with the world in which thou livest, it would have been necessary for the event occurring in that dream to have transpired in this world at the very moment of its occurrence. Were it so, you yourself would have borne witness unto it. This being not the case, however, it must follow that the world in which thou livest is different and apart from that which thou hast experienced in thy dream. This latter world hath neither beginning nor end. It would be true if you wert to contend that this same world is, as decreed by the All-Glorious and Almighty God, within thy proper self and is wrapped up within thee. It would equally be true to maintain that thy spirit, having transcended the limitations of sleep and having stripped itself of all earthly attachment, hath, by the act of God, been made to traverse a realm which lieth hidden in the innermost reality of this world. Verily I say, the creation of God embraceth worlds besides this world and creatures apart from these creatures. (p. 152)
Bahá’u’lláh’s tablet contained encouragement to His followers to meditate upon the significance of this passage, to discover Divine purpose; elsewhere, He (1991) stated that the dream has been placed in the individual so that the mysteries of the next life would not be denied. This should not be understood to minimize the significance of dream interpretation within the context of psychotherapy as currently practiced. In this connection, the Writings of the religion include ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s (1978) examination of dreams presented to him, such as follows:
As for the mighty solar orb which thou didst behold in thy dream, that was the Promised One, and its spreading rays were His bounties, and the translucent surface of the mass of water signifieth hearts that are undefiled and pure, while the surging waves denote the great excitement of those hearts and the fact that they were shaken and deeply moved, that is the waves are the stirrings of the spirit and holy intimations of the soul. Praise thou God that in the world of the dream thou hast witnessed such disclosures. (pp. 179-180)
Rather, from the perspective provided by the Bahá’í Writings concerning the powers of the soul, it would appear that the phenomenon of dreams and the experience of meditation hold greater implications with respect to the existential concerns of clients than presently recognized or utilized by the field of psychology.
As inferred from the foregoing, it is apparent that a preliminary Baha’i concept of mental health cannot reflect or endorse an apprehension of human reality confined to the temporal world or one that excludes consideration of the fundamentally spiritual nature of the person. Although the Bahá’í Writings make clear reference to the developmental stages of infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood with respect to the individual’s physical nature, the teachings afford a perspective of a spiritual dimension of human reality that speaks to a trajectory of progress essentially infinite in scope at a pace commensurate with the person’s apprehension of Divine purpose, assumption of responsibility for personal growth, and exercise of volition. This spiritual development is unique to the individual’s life and capacities, reflects the deeply personal connection between the soul and its Maker, redefines faith as complementary to reason, includes a causality that acknowledges God’s will and wisdom, and transcends concepts of temporality and spatiality in the world of being.
It is in recognition of a dual purpose of existence that the complementarity of the physical and spiritual aspects of human nature and experience might most readily be identified and brought to bear on the question of normality, however obscured by current theories focusing on humanity’s lower nature or reflective of the hedonistic relativism of a morally bankrupt society. We can liken the task of sacrificing the lower nature for the higher nature, in the light of religion, to the transformation of coal into a diamond, which gives up the properties of the former to obtain the brilliance of the latter. The healthy personality is one evolving to reflect the “gem-like reality of man” (Bahá’u’lláh, 1971b, p. 77), the signs of God in the person.
Although ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1975) wrote that “self-love is kneaded into the very clay of man” (p. 96), recognition of Divine will sets the individual on a developmental path through which the higher nature gains ascendency over the lower, and the latent potentialities of the divine aspect of the person begin to manifest themselves. Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings indicated that the path to such development is not through the “door that leadeth to earthly riches” (p. 30), but through that of self-sacrifice. ‘Abdu’l- Bahá (1975) further noted in this connection that:
Sincerity is the foundation-stone of faith. That is, a religious individual must disregard his personal desires and seek in whatever way he can wholeheartedly to serve the public interest; and it is impossible for a human being to turn aside from his own selfish advantages and sacrifice his own good for the good of the community except through true religious faith...it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward he should neglect his own present material good. That individual, however, who puts his faith in God and believes in the words of God--because he is promised and certain a plentiful reward in the next life, and because worldly benefits as compared to the abiding joy and glory of future planes of existence are nothing to him--will for the sake of God abandon his own peace and profit and will freely consecrate his heart and soul to the common good. (pp. 96-7)
However descriptive the pleasure principle or efficacious the positive reinforcement, both constructs derive from theoretical conceptualizations that concern the individual’s lower nature. While confirming the role of instincts and the motivation of self-interest within the physical reality, these also relate to the individual in an adolescent stage of development, where demands for immediate gratification preempt the perception, knowledge, volition, and action that are characteristic of adult maturity and requisite for further development of the higher, spiritual nature.
The concept of immortality, in conjunction with an apprehension of God’s will and purpose, provides both motivational impetus and directionality in development of the higher nature. Within the Bahá’í Writings, absence of belief in another life engenders an apathy with respect to the individual’s underutilization of temporal existence for the acquisition of spiritual attributes and virtues, misperception of the world as an arena for amassing personal wealth, and misguided bartering of an innate potentiality of an enduring spiritual distinction for that of transitory social status (‘Abdu’l-Bahá,
1982a). Although it is clear from the Writings that such things as attachment to material possessions, an overemphasis on sex, or preoccupation with worldly status can function as spiritual impediments, Bahá’u’lláh (1971b) also wrote that:
Should a man wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or on the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not yourselves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful. (p. 276)
In noting this, as well as Shoghi Effendi’s (1984) statement that the Bahá’í standard of conduct “is not to be confused with any form of asceticism, or of excessive and bigoted puritanism” (p. 33), it is clear that the religion’s perspective with respect to development of the healthy personality is not one that evolves through extreme spiritual practices; it emerges through a moral and balanced interaction with an environment identified as matrix for the cultivation of virtues, in which work is expressive of spiritual purpose and is a form of prayer that addresses the selfishness of the lower nature.
Spiritual development is initiated by what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sometimes referred to as rebirth or second birth; in the Bahá’í Writings, it is the spiritual counterpart to the physical birth (1972, 1982a). While this stage in development of spiritual awareness is unique to the individual, Bahá’u’lláh (1974) stated that knowledge of God is predicated upon “purity of heart, chastity of soul and freedom of spirit” (p. 211), conditions unrelated to intelligence quotients and human learning. Recognizing the rights and responsibilities of the individual before God, as well as the unique capacities of the soul and mind, the Bahá’í Faith affirms a clear principle of an unfettered, independent search for truth, with respect to choice of religion.
Likening the human reality to a mirror designed to reflect the signs of God, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982a) described the process of spiritual development as one of polishing the mirror of the dross of worldly attachments and human imperfections. Obedience to Divine law, including guidance for prayer, fasting, meditation, and study of Sacred Scriptures, is a primary spiritual means for inner development, requiring the exercise of volition and action guided by knowledge, faith, and self-awareness. The laws and ordinances enshrined in the Bahá’í Writings are recognized as Divine authority, identified by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1972) as “not imposition of will, or of power, or pleasure, but the resolutions of truth, reason and justice” (p. 154); the identification of divinely revealed law as a form of infantilization suggests a confused and inadequate grasp of the true nature of liberty within temporal existence, characteristic of a rebellious stage of youth.
The process of development of the higher nature requires utilization of the vicissitudes of life, whether God-given or self-inflicted, as means for spiritual growth. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1972) stated:
The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe; the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him...the greatest men have suffered most. (p. 178)
The healthy personality, evolving the spiritual perception, understanding, and attributes inherent in the higher nature, recognizes the opportunity presented by suffering for development of a detachment from the lower nature and the material world. That the inner essence of the individual is not a repository of psychological sewage but of ancient, Divine mysteries, is affirmed by the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith. However, Bahá’u’lláh (1971b) stated that “all that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition” (p. 149). Despite the transitory and illusory comfort of membership in the herd, the choice belongs to the individual, alone.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982b) noted that within the seed is that which is inherent in the tree; the transition from one form to the other is not sudden, but emerges gradually over time and results in fruition. The author applied this analogy to the evolution of both individual and society. In this, as well as through numerous other illustrations, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá affirmed that it is now time for maturation of humankind.
From a Bahá’í perspective, humanity’s progressive nature and evolutionary destiny of ultimate fruition can be readily identified through a dispassionate examination of history that gives credence to the fostering impetus of Divine will, expressed through the appearance of a succession of Prophets over time, as well as to a cyclical renewal of religion in which Divine Revelation reflects the development of the species while reaffirming fundamental spiritual verities. That the ebb and flow of Divine expression in the temporal world reflect the efflorescence and decay of civilizations and that current societal conditions are indicative of a spiritual low-water mark in human history are repeatedly affirmed in the Bahá’í Writings. From a spiritual vantage point, the present disequilibrium of world society reflects a process in which a new world order is emerging, in tandem with dissolution of the present order. According to the Bahá’í Writings, the unification of mankind will mark the culmination of this unfoldment, entailing a process of developing a spiritual counterpart to material civilization (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982a).
The evolution of the species has traversed developmental stages akin to those experienced by the individual. Of this, Shoghi Effendi (1974b) stated:
The long ages of infancy and childhood, through which the human race had to pass, have receded into the background. Humanity is now experiencing the commotions invariably associated with the most turbulent stage of its evolution, the stage of adolescence, when the impetuosity of youth and its vehemence reach their climax, and must gradually be superseded by the calmness, the wisdom, and the maturity that characterize the stage of manhood. Then will the human race reach that stature of ripeness which will enable it to acquire all the powers and capacities
upon which its ultimate development must depend. (p. 202)
The Writings of the Bahá’í Faith address themselves to the emergence and maturation of humanity, calling for both individual and collective adulthood. With respect to the individual’s societal existence, a Bahá’í definition of mental health must evolve in tandem not only with development of the higher nature and consequent enhancement of human capacities, but also with reference to the spiritual condition of the world.
The Bahá’í Faith: In Response to the Psychologists
From a brief review of some of the Bahá’í teachings concerning human nature, and the individual and societal processes of spiritual development that shape a necessarily evolving definition of mental health, it is readily apparent that the religion’s tenets have far greater affinity to psychological perspectives that give credence to the individual’s higher nature, and to the operation of spiritual faculties reflecting the person’s inner essence and soul. That the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith cannot fully endorse the theoretical views of particular psychologists does not preclude ready identification of areas of common ground. It is through examination of similarities, while clarifying the religion’s teachings with regard to differences, that the Bahá’í concept may be more readily understood.
In Response to Carl Rogers
With respect to Carl Rogers’ postulation that human nature is fundamentally positive and that the individual has a directionality toward growth, this view appears to adopt an absolutism diametrically opposite to psychological theories and theological doctrines predicated upon belief in inherent evil and innate depravity. However, the Bahá’í definition of evil as the absence of good does not lend itself to traditional arguments revolving around this dichotomy, but reframes the issue so that the lower nature and physical reality are necessary complements of the spiritual nature and dimension of being. Although Rogers’ writings do not appear to employ the Bahá’í definition of evil, it is in this sense, and with respect to the essential reality of the individual that stands between light and darkness, that the religion’s teachings agree that human nature is fundamentally good; souls are perfect at creation (Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1969). In this connection, Rogers’ position concerning human nature might most readily be brought to bear upon an understanding of the higher nature of the individual, not adequately addressed by either the nascent field of psychology or by religious dogmas. With respect to the latter, it is to the decline of religion that the perversion of human nature is attributed (Shoghi Effendi, 1974b); rather, it is to the fundamental purpose and spiritual verities within religion that psychology must give due consideration.
The valuing process in the infant that Rogers cited in evidence of an organismic valuing process in adults, while aptly descriptive of the role of instincts in meeting physical survival needs, does not suffice as argument for an inherent inclination of human choice toward expression of innate goodness or positive directionality; rather, it explains the rampant disinclination for development of the higher, spiritual nature in favor of more immediate and adolescent gratifications of the lower nature. In this connection, ‘Abdu’l- Bahá (1975) stated:
There are some who imagine that an innate sense of human dignity will prevent man from committing evil actions and insure his spiritual and material perfection. That is, that an individual who is characterized with natural intelligence, high resolve, and a driving zeal, will, without any consideration for the severe punishment consequent on evil acts, or for the great rewards of righteousness, instinctively refrain from inflicting harm on his fellow men and will hunger and thirst to do good. And yet, if we ponder the lessons of history it will become evident that this very sense of honor and dignity is itself one of the bounties deriving from the instructions of the Prophets of God. We also observe in infants the signs of aggression and lawlessness, and that if a child is deprived of a teacher’s instructions his undesirable qualities increase from one moment to the next. (p. 98)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá made a further distinction between the natural and acquired capacities, also examined in this connection. He (1982b) stated:
capacity is of two kinds: natural capacity and acquired capacity. The first, which is the creation of God, is purely good--in the creation of God there is no evil; but the acquired capacity has become the cause of the appearance of evil. For example, God has created all men in such a manner and has given them such a constitution and such capacities that they are benefitted by sugar and honey and harmed and destroyed by poison. This nature and constitution is innate, and God has given it equally to all mankind. But man begins little by little to accustom himself to poison by taking a small quantity each day, and gradually increasing it, until he reaches such a point that he cannot live without a gram of opium every day. The natural capacities are thus completely perverted. (p. 214)
Although Rogers (1989d) was careful to specify that positive choices occur “in a psychological climate which is nurturant of growth and choice” (p. 218), it is clear that his perspective of the person anticipated the evolution of higher capacities through self- guided development within a positive social context, in the apparent absence of belief in the purpose and role of the successive Prophets of God as Divine Educators. The Writings of the Bahá’í Faith also distinguish between the various contexts in which the person expresses acquired characteristics. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982b) commented on this, as follows:
from the beginnings of his life you can see in a nursing child the signs of greed, of anger and of temper. Then, it may be said, good and evil are innate in the reality of man, and this is contrary to the pure goodness of nature and creation. The answer to this is that greed, which is to ask for something more, is a praiseworthy quality provided that it is used suitably. So if a man is greedy to acquire science and knowledge, or to become compassionate, generous and just, it is most praiseworthy. If he exercises his anger and wrath against the bloodthirsty tyrants who are like ferocious beasts, it is very praiseworthy; but if he does not use these qualities in the right way, they are blameworthy. (p. 215)
In keeping with his views on human nature and directionality, the personality theory
of Rogers underscored the importance of self-awareness and an internal locus of evaluation for development of an enhanced perceptual field undistorted by introjected values and conditions of worth imposed by others. Although silent on specific aspects of Rogers’ phenomenological field approach, the Bahá’í teachings clearly emphasize the importance of self-awareness in the process of development of the higher nature. Bahá’u’lláh (1978) stated:
The first Taráz and the first effulgence which hath dawned from the horizon of the Mother Book is that man should know his own self and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness, glory or abasement, wealth or poverty. (pp. 34-5)
With regard to an internal locus of evaluation, the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith give indication that one should seek approval from God alone, and repeatedly give credence to human intellectual capacity and responsibility for investigation of reality (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1915; 1982a). Further, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982a) indicated that “man is not intended to see through the eyes of another, hear through another’s ears, nor comprehend with another’s brain” (p. 293); from this perspective, utilization of non-directive approaches within the context of psychotherapy is more in consonance with the Bahá’í Writings than directive therapies in which the clinician assumes a posture of enlightened authority.
Although Rogers’ theory took into consideration subception, or somatic perceptions, with respect to the organism’s response to the phenomenological field, his views concerning the enhancement and expansion of the field were without reference to the cultivation of spiritual susceptibilities and perceptions. In this connection, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s (1982b) statement concerning types of knowledge might be brought to bear on Rogers’ theory, as follows:
The knowledge of things which men universally have is gained by reflection or by evidence--that is to say, either by the power of the mind the conception of an object is formed, or from beholding an object the form is produced in the mirror of the heart....But the second sort of knowledge, which is the knowledge of being, is intuitive; it is like the cognizance and consciousness that man has of himself.
For example, the mind and the spirit of man are cognizant of the conditions and states of the members and component parts of the body, and are aware of all the physical sensations; in the same way, they are aware of their power, of their feelings, and of their spiritual conditions. This is the knowledge of being which man realizes and perceives, for the spirit surrounds the body and is aware of its sensations and powers. This knowledge is not the outcome of effort and study. It is an existing thing; it is an absolute gift. (p. 157)
The abilities to see with the eyes of the spirit, hear with spiritual ears, and comprehend Divinity with the heart are among the spiritual capacities that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá noted to be operative in conjunction with the apprehension of spiritual truths (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1972); as such, they are part of the perceptual field.
Of Rogers’ conceptualization of the fully-functioning person, the Bahá’í Writings clearly speak to temporal existence of the individual as intended for a process of growth. That Rogers did not conceptualize an ultimate, optimum condition of homeostasis is in keeping with a Baha’i conceptual framework in which spiritual rebirth is not an endpoint, but the beginning of a spiritual journey, and the potential for acquisition of spiritual perfections is infinite. Not only is the task of polishing one’s inner mirror of the dross of imperfections a lifelong task, but as noted by Shoghi Effendi (1981) in a letter written on his behalf:
Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above all against our own ego. We can never afford to rest on our oars, for if we do, we soon see ourselves carried down stream again. (p. 454)
Rogers’ (1961) identification of the query of “Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?” (p. 119) as the only question that matters was apparently without reference to the spiritual dimension of human existence, but does allow for the possibility that the individual’s answer will hold spiritual implications. However, the psychologist’s assumptions concerning human nature and directionality also allowed that an inner locus of evaluation can deny the Source of knowledge, dispense with God, ignore Divine Revelation, and make sense of life’s vicissitudes in the absence of a sense of purpose or reason for living. From the perspective of the Bahá’í Faith, lack of an understanding of the purpose of temporal existence and the fundamentally spiritual nature of the human reality can foster a selfishness that precludes exercise of conscience and reason in the very society that Rogers endeavored to change.
Human characteristics of congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy, considered integral to the process of unfolding potentiality and developing psychological maturity in Rogers’ schema, are basically in keeping with the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith. Not only is self-awareness encouraged, including exhortation to bring the self to account daily, but Bahá’ís are enjoined to avoid hypocrisy and deceit in relationships (Bahá’u’lláh, 1975; 1992). Both unconditional positive regard and empathy can be identified as spiritual capacities that enable a person to give credence to the true nature and purpose of the other, an understanding through which the individual can more readily set aside the “insistent self” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1978, p. 256) and its self-serving prejudices and interests, to be in an authentic and unselfish helping relationship.
With regard to Rogers’ depiction of the person of tomorrow, the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith are in agreement that the world is in a transformational crisis; the perspective offered by the religion is that this is a necessary transitional stage of the developmental process, through which mankind will emerge from adolescence into a stage of adult maturity. As previously noted, Rogers (1989g) identified the psychologically mature person as being in a process of becoming “a worthy participant and guide in the process of human evolution” (p. 283); as understood from the Bahá’í Writings, this requires a shift of focus in the individual from selfish personal interests to the well-being of all. ‘Abdu’l- Bahá (1978) noted in this connection:
Every imperfect soul is self-centered and thinketh only of his own good. But as his thoughts expand a little he will begin to think of the welfare and comfort of his own family. If his ideas still more widen, he will be thinking of the glory of his land and of his race. But when his ideas and views reach the utmost degree of expansion and attain the stage of perfection, then will he be interested in the exaltation of humankind. He will then be the well-wisher of all men and the seeker of the weal and prosperity of all lands. (p. 69)
The paradigm shift of which Rogers wrote will be shaped by cognizance of the oneness of mankind, in which the development of a spiritual counterpart to material civilization will redound to the glory of the human race. Bahá’u’lláh (1971b) enjoined, “Let your vision be world-embracing, rather than confined to your own self” (p. 94). It is questionable whether the fully-functioning person can have a priority of concern with self-expression and self-satisfaction in the role of evolutionary guide that Rogers envisioned.
In Response to Abraham Maslow
Abraham Maslow’s endeavors to “save everything worth saving in religion, everything real and true” (Maslow, 1979, p. 6), which helped him to shape his concept of the self- actualized person, appear based upon legitimate concerns about the dichotomization of science and religion. The psychologist noted the extent to which the religions require blind faith in what does not conform to reason, while science attempts in vain to cast itself as an amoral technology. As previously stated, Maslow believed that both science and religion have been too narrowly defined and placed in separate worlds, to the detriment of both (Maslow, 1966b; 1970b).
According to the Bahá’í Writings, science and religion are “the two most potent forces in human life” (Shoghi Effendi, 1974b, p. 204), which must be harmonized and go hand- in-hand. Of this basic principle of the religion, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982a) stated:
The third principle or teaching of Bahá’u’lláh is the oneness of religion and science. Any religious belief which is not conformable with scientific proof and investigation is superstition, for true science is reason and reality, and religion is essentially reality and pure reason; therefore, the two must correspond. Religious teaching which is at variance with science and reason is human invention and imagination unworthy of acceptance, for the antithesis and opposite of knowledge is superstition born of the ignorance of man. If we say religion is opposed to science, we lack knowledge of either true science or true religion, for both are founded upon the premises and conclusions of reason, and both must bear its test. (p. 107)
That Maslow sought to retain what he identified as real and true in religion, that he was unable to endorse blind imitations and dogmatic interpretations or to have faith in what did not conform to science and reason, is in keeping with a basic principle of the Bahá’í Faith. However, his identification of religion as dead in seeking to recast the fundamental verities of true religion within an expanded definition of science, appears to reflect contemporary perspectives that have failed to note the cyclical nature and impact of Divine Revelation over the course of human history.
In his concept of self-actualization, Maslow gave credence to the positive aspects of both higher and lower nature, arguing for the potential existence of a co-operative relationship between these facets of the person (Maslow, 1979). This perspective of complementarity and integration, extending beyond simple concepts of dichotomization that are without reference to a process of growth throughout the life cycle, can be understood from a Bahá’í perspective as having application to the balanced functioning and healthy development not only of the individual, but to society as well. In this connection, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982a) stated:
Man has two powers, and his development two aspects. One power is connected with the material world and by it he is capable of material advancement. The other power is spiritual and through its development his inner, potential nature is awakened. These powers are like two wings. Both must be developed, for flight is impossible with one wing...material advancement has been evident in the world but there is need of spiritual advancement in like proportion. We must strive unceasingly and without rest to accomplish the development of the spiritual nature in man, and endeavor with tireless energy to advance humanity toward the nobility of its true and intended station. (p. 60)
From his non-theistic vantage point, Maslow identified the inner nature of the person as neutral or good, and observed that happiness emerges from personal growth while illness results from the individual’s failure to change when it is time for change (Maslow, 1968b). His existential posture with respect to the importance of utilization of personal suffering and pain for the purpose of growth finds support in the Bahá’í Writings, which indicate that “suffering is both a reminder and a guide” (Shoghi Effendi, 1981, p. 434). Moreover, Bahá’u’lláh’s (1971b) statement that “all that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition” (p. 149) can readily be brought to bear on Maslow’s emphasis on fulfilling potential through personal effort.
Although Maslow’s perspective that deficiency needs take precedence over the higher needs and are addressed in a hierarchical manner may well hold true for non-religious individuals, the linear process that he postulated would appear to require reexamination with respect to those who are religious. While acknowledging Maslow’s stated position concerning suffering as a potential impetus to growth, it must be noted that the problems of the religious person with respect to unmet deficiency needs are ones conceivably channeled into the inner growth and character development that characterize the self- actualized individual. Further, with reference to conditions of gross materialism, which also represent an absence of deficiency needs in individuals, Shoghi Effendi (1970) noted “the fears and anxieties that distract their minds, the pleasures and dissipations that fill their time, the prejudices and animosities that darken their outlook, the apathy and lethargy that paralyze their spiritual faculties” (p. 149), which did not suggest an intrinsic growth trajectory toward self-actualization but, rather, toward a confused, avoidant, and defensive state of selfishness.
Maslow identified self-actualization as making real what the person actually is, a process that emerges from involvement with a cause outside of the self (Maslow, 1970a; 1973). In this respect, the author’s views are in keeping with the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith. Concerning the true nature of the individual, Bahá’u’lláh (1975) stated:
O My servant! Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world. (p. 47)
Enhancement of the self with the trappings of the temporal world does not promote self- actualization but, rather, it occurs through a process of detachment that sets aside desires of the egotistical lower self for higher purposes.
Review of the traits of Maslow’s self-actualizing person indicates a basic agreement with those attributed to an individual engaged in a process of spiritual development. Of particular import are the attributions of acceptance of themselves and others, problem- centeredness rather than ego-centeredness, Gemeinschaftsgefühl or feeling of belonging to all mankind, democratic character structures, and a resistance to enculturation that permits perceptions of cultural inconsistencies and unfairness. These attributes of the self- actualized person entail a cultivation of the virtue of justice, of which Bahá’u’lláh (1975) wrote:
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is my gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes. (pp. 3-4)
From the foregoing, it is evident that neither self-actualization nor spiritual development allows for the blind imitation that fosters prejudice.
Included in the traits listed by Maslow as being characteristic of the self-actualizing person is that of frequent mystic experiences, which he likened to the those upon which religions were originally based. While the Bahá’í Faith affirms the fundamentally mystical, transcendent nature of the Revelation to God from Bahá’u’lláh, the religion makes a distinction between this type of mystical experience, and those on rare occasions experienced by individuals. In letters written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi (Hornby, 1988) stated:
There is a fundamental difference between Divine Revelation as vouchsafed by God to His Prophets, and the spiritual experiences and visions which individuals may have. The latter should, under no circumstances, be construed as constituting an infallible source of guidance, even for the person experiencing them. (p. 514)
Briefly, there is no question that visions occasionally do come to individuals, which are true and have significance. On the other hand, this comes to an individual through the grace of God, and not through the exercise of any of the human faculties. (p. 515)
While one type of mystical experience, characterized by an altered state of consciousness and enhanced perception, may occur in the life of an individual, the experience of such states is not actively sought by Bahá’ís; true mystical experiences and visions are rare gifts.
The B-values toward which Maslow’s self-actualizing person strives include wholeness, dichotomy-transcendence, uniqueness, perfection, aliveness, order, necessity, and completion, which are also descriptive of the world perceived within the context of mystical experiences. Maslow further identified B-values of truth, goodness, beauty, justice, self-sufficiency, and effortlessness, which he regarded as characteristics of the intrinsic human nature (Maslow, 1973). From a Bahá’í perspective, the B-values are readily identified as attributes of God; it is in the capacity of the inner nature of the individual to mirror these qualities. The author’s view of the B-values as reflective of biologically-based instincts is noted to be consistent with a non-theistic world view.
Maslow’s use of the term “metapathology” (Maslow, 1969, p. 733) to describe spiritual or existential illness resulting from the deprivation of these B-values, or meta- needs, is aptly descriptive of needs emerging from the higher nature, as distinguished from the mental illness associated with the ego of the lower nature. That processes of self- actualization and spiritual development direct the individual toward development of the higher nature, requiring engagement of the uniquely human characteristics of reason and conscience, as well as the exercise of volition on a path of selflessness rather than expression of the lower nature, would necessarily require contending with the jungle world-view, insecurities, and selfishness of those having a materialistic focus. As previously stated, the expression of acquired characteristics is dependent upon context; the Bahá’í Writings appear to agree with Maslow’s observations concerning change in the quality of aggression occurring in the shift from psychological immaturity to maturity, such as the difference between meanness and righteous indignation.
Maslow regarded the higher needs as representing a later evolutionary development of the human being. That the Revelation of God has been progressive over the course of history, building upon the increased capacities and knowledge of the species while retaining and expanding upon fundamental spiritual verities, is a Bahá’í teaching that, in a general sense, supports the psychologist’s view. Maslow’s emphasis concerning the potentially synergistic relationship between the individual and society is clearly identified in the Bahá’í Scriptures, in connection with the individual’s fundamental purpose for temporal existence; the religion would further regard development of a spiritual civilization as counterpart to material civilization as being the basic task of the Good Person in Maslow’s Good Society.
In Response to Carl Jung
Carl Jung’s general conceptualization of the individual that gives credence to the person’s spiritual nature and relationship to God is essentially in keeping with the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith. The author’s negative response to the then-prevailing psychological theory that accorded sexuality a dominant motivating role in human existence, while simultaneously being dismissive of religion, is also a matter of agreement. With regard to Jung’s stated view that the exaggeration of the importance of sex was symptomatic of the spiritual imbalance of contemporary society, a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi (Hornby, 1988) during the same year noted that “amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history, is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis of sex” (p. 364).
While it is clear that the Bahá’í Faith accords primacy to the mediating role of the Prophets of God in conveying religious truth for the guidance of human life and spiritual development, rather than identifying the origin of religious structure and its verities as occurring within the person, it also affirms the importance of individual religious experience and practice. As previously noted, Jung’s concern about mass- mindedness in his differentiation between religion and creed is addressed in the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith concerning the importance of independent investigation of the truth. Moreover, this religion identifies all forms of prejudice as having emerged from blind imitation, a practice identified by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as one which stunts the mind (‘Abdu’l- Bahá, 1978). He (1978) stated:
Ye observe how the world is divided against itself, how many a land is red with blood and its very dust is caked with human gore....the breeding-ground of all these tragedies is prejudice: prejudice of race and nation, of religion, of political opinion; and the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past--imitation in religion, in racial attitudes, in national bias, in politics. So long as this aping of the past persisteth, just so long will the foundations of the social order be blown to the four winds, just so long will humanity be continually exposed to direst peril. (p. 247)
In the general Bahá’í view of religion, a distinction clearly exists between the authentic Word of the Prophets and humanity’s blind or self-seeking reinterpretation.
With respect to Jung’s observation that religion could be a factor in the etiology of neurosis, it is unclear whether the psychologist distinguished between true religion and unthinking imitation of human accretions; however, his point that some neurosis could be caused by the ignoring of religious promptings requires no elaboration. That fundamentally meaningless, avoidant, or self-injurious substitutes for personal and spiritual development might be a cause for existential or spiritual ailments would appear self- evident in light of the religion’s teachings concerning the purpose of temporal existence. However, a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice (Hornby, 1988) indicated that “mental illness is not spiritual, although its effects may indeed hinder and be a burden in one’s striving toward spiritual progress” (p. 284). It would appear that further research must be conducted with respect to the distinction that the religion makes between mental and spiritual illnesses.
Jung’s personality theory attributed the development of conscious awareness to the functions of thinking, feeling, intuition, and sensation, and indicated that consciousness emerges from the unconscious. Of the development of consciousness, the following excerpts from letters written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi (Hornby, 1988) provided the Bahá’í perspective:
You have asked as to what point in man’s evolution he becomes conscious of self. This consciousness of self in man is a gradual process, and does not start at a definite point. It grows in him in this world and continues to do so in the future spiritual world....Man can certainly recall past experiences in his evolution, and even when his soul leaves this world it will still remember the past. (p. 115)
Man’s evolution is both individual and collective, because of his twofold relationship to himself and the society in which he lives. Individual evolution starts with the early stages of one’s existence. Consciousness too grows with this evolution. (p. 115)
While the Bahá’í Writings do not appear to indicate specifically that conscious awareness emerges from the unconscious, the Texts liken the absence of spiritual awareness to a condition of sleep, analogous to the cognitive process to which Jung referred.
In contrast with the Jungian concepts of ego and self, in which the former is the center of consciousness, as distinguished from the self, which is the center of the whole personality, Bahá’í concepts and usages of these terms differ. In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi (Hornby, 1988), the author stated:
Regarding the questions you asked: Self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá’í writings; one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as “he hath known God who hath known himself etc”. The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection. (p. 113)
The usages of the term “self” in the Bahá’í Writings refer to the higher and lower natures; the identity of the individual as created by God is the person’s inner essence, the core self, obscured by the conscious ego of the lower nature.
In contrast to the Jungian conceptualization, self-knowledge not only pertains to the ego, but through spiritual faculties and awareness, also brings into consciousness the self that reflects the signs of God. However, the former requires focus on the lower nature with attendant potential spiritual pitfalls, while awareness of the higher self requires detachment from worldly desires. Of this latter process, Shoghi Effendi’s (Hornby, 1988) secretary stated on his behalf:
The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life. (pp. 114-115)
In the Bahá’í view, the knowledge of the self gained by being forgetful of the self requires a process of detachment through which the inner essence of the individual, increasingly reflective of the signs of God, is not obscured or distorted by the dross of worldly desires on the mirror of the heart.
Jung’s conceptualization of the collective unconscious rests upon a postulation of a biologically-based mapping of the history of mankind in the individual’s brain structure, having components that include instincts and archetypes, and is essentially a shared dimension of the psyche in which time and space are relative. The Bahá’í concepts of the soul and Holy Spirit, as critical aspects of the individual’s spiritual nature, stand in contrast to a conceptualization that requires a biological substrate for the perception of spiritual realities. In this connection, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made a distinction with respect to the realities of the person, which include the animalistic, intellectual, and spiritual. Of the spiritual reality, he (1971) stated:
there is a third reality in man, the spiritual reality. Through its medium one discovers spiritual revelations, a celestial faculty which is infinite as regards the intellectual as well as physical realms. That power is conferred upon man through the breaths of the Holy Spirit. It is an eternal reality, an indestructible reality, a reality belonging to the divine, supernatural kingdom; a reality whereby the world is illumined, a reality which grants unto man eternal life. This third, spiritual reality it is which discovers past events and looks along vistas of the future. It is the ray of the Sun of Reality. The spiritual world is enlightened by it, the whole of the Kingdom is illumined by it. It enjoys the world of beatitude, a world which has not beginning and which shall have no end. (p. 51)
The Bahá’í Writings have identified the soul as having an indivisible substance, through which the body exists, rather than the opposite condition (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982b). Moreover, the soul is “the repository of the ancient, Divine mysteries of God” (Hornby, 1988, p. 505). Given the nature of the soul and spiritual reality of the individual, a postulation of a genetic endowment of memories of human evolution in the brain appears based upon a view that accords primacy to the animalistic reality, which the Bahá’í religion does not endorse. This is not to state that the soul may not utilize the instrumentality of the senses with respect to apprehension of spiritual realities, but rather, that physiological systems are a secondary vehicle connected with temporality and laws of causation, transcended by higher order processes in the spiritual dimension of existence. Further, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982a) stated:
Strive diligently to acquire virtues befitting your degree and station....Ascend to the zenith of an existence which is never beclouded by the fears and forebodings of nonexistence. When man is not endowed with inner perception, he is not informed of these important mysteries. The retina of outer vision, though sensitive and delicate, may, nevertheless, be a hindrance to the inner eye which alone can perceive. The bestowals of God which are manifest in all phenomenal life are sometimes hidden by intervening veils of mental and mortal vision which render man spiritually blind and incapable, but when those scales are removed and the veils rent asunder, then the great signs of God will become visible, and he will witness the eternal light filling the world. (pp. 89-90)
In addition to the inherent capacity of the soul to access spiritual realities beyond the contingent realm, the Bahá’í Faith recognizes the Holy Spirit as the spiritual force that interacts with the human reality, primarily through the Manifestations of God.
This sanctified reality, which cannot be described in material terms, has also been referred to as the Universal Soul, while references to the Manifestations of God include the term Universal Mind (Abú’l-Fadl, 1985; ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1978, 1982b). In distinguishing between the types of perception in humanity, which vary according to the differing conditions of human beings, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1982b) referred to a similar concept, as follows:
the universal divine mind, which is beyond nature, is the bounty of the Preexistent Power. This universal mind is divine; it embraces existing realities, and it receives the light of the mysteries of God. It is a conscious power, not a power of investigation and research. The intellectual power of the world of nature is a power of investigation, and by its researches it discovers the realities of beings and the properties of existences; but the heavenly intellectual power, which is beyond nature, embraces things and is cognizant of things, knows them, understands them, is aware of mysteries, realities and divine significations, and is the discoverer of the concealed verities of the Kingdom. This divine intellectual power is the special attribute of the Holy Manifestations and the Dawning-places of prophethood; a ray of this light falls upon the mirrors of the hearts of the righteous, and a portion and a share of this power comes to them through the Holy Manifestations. (p. 218)
According to the Bahá’í Writings, the Holy Spirit enlightens human intelligence, fosters spiritual development and progress, and represents the unifying force within the world of humanity. As noted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the bestowals of the Holy Spirit are given in reflection and meditation (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1972, 1982a); defining meditation as the key for opening the doors of mysteries, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1972) also noted that “when the power of insight is being used the outward power of vision does not see” (p. 175).
With regard to Jung’s observation concerning the operation of negative forces in the collective unconscious, this might otherwise be understood as the absence of the positive power of the Holy Spirit in interaction with the human reality. Although neither mythology nor the role of archetypes appears specifically addressed by the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith, a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the present writer stated:
as we have stated on a previous occasion, the Bahá’í teachings on the subject of progressive revelation and the life-cycles of the religious dispensations undoubtedly throw much light on this subject for a thoughtful student. We know that there have been many more Prophets than those whose names have been handed down to us, and one can well believe that in the myths of primitive peoples one may see, as it were, the “foot-prints” of some of these Prophets in the sands of history.
When one considers all the religious stories that abound in human traditions one finds that some are true accounts of actual events, some are largely metaphorical but are linked in one way or another to historical happenings, and others are invented stories told to illustrate a spiritual teaching. Some can be understood on different levels. A study of how historical facts and imaginary stories have become commingled in the more recent religions, such as Christianity and Islám, may well lead to a clearer understanding of how the ancient myths of pagan Greece and Rome and other peoples came into being. (February 13, 1998)
In identifying religion as a dynamism influencing collective spiritual development, it would appear that Jung’s postulations concerning mythology and archetypes require further examination with reference to the Bahá’í concept of progressive revelation, as well as human capacity to reach beyond the constraints of time as evidenced in dreams.
The individuation process and that of spiritual development are essentially in agreement with regard to the integration of conscious and unconscious aspects of the individual, to the extent to which the latter dimension of the psyche provides a glimpse of realms beyond the present life, serves as stimulus to personal development, and provides perspective on physical existence. In this connection, the Bahá’í Faith does not recognize development of the ego as pivotal to this process, given its identification as a component of the lower nature inclusive of the darker aspects of the personality, which Jung identified as one of the characteristics of the unconscious shadow. While the polarities of instinct and archetype can be regarded as consistent with the religion’s perspective, where the latter is understood to correspond with spirit and higher consciousness, the process of spiritual development includes the regulation of instincts as well as a related process of detachment from petty worldly concerns, instrumental in the development of the higher nature.
Unlike the individuation process, spiritual development does not occur in a largely unconscious manner, although facilitated through such alterations of normal waking consciousness as seen in meditative states. Rather, it is through a conscious and ongoing effort, an expression of volition that is unique to the species, that spiritual development occurs, through practices of prayer and meditation, service, and obedience to religious law. Further, the Bahá’í Writings recognize the process as one that begins simultaneously in the physical and spiritual worlds and then solely extends beyond earthly existence.
The emergence of selfhood, which Jung described as the God-image archetype, is understood within the Bahá’í Scriptures as the recognition and reflection of the signs of God within the self. As the perfections of Divinity are infinite, the process of spiritual development is also limitless. The self-realization that Jung viewed as characterizing individuation appears to have a similar endpoint, if not the same process, as spiritual development. With respect to Jung’s observations concerning the importance of self- awareness and with regard to the vastness of the inner reality of the individual, the psychologist appears to echo Bahá’u’lláh’s (1991) affirmation of the tradition, “Dost thou reckon thyself only a puny form when within thee the universe is folded?” (p. 34).
Review of the major concepts related to self-actualization, individuation, and the fully-functioning person reveals a general thread of similarity concerning the healthy personality, primarily in the postulation of processes that reveal the true nature and inherent potentialities of the individual during a lifelong course of development. There is basic agreement between the Bahá’í Writings and the views of the psychologists that the inner nature of the person goes beyond the realm of instincts and physical senses shared with the animal species, and extends to enhanced intellectual faculties of awareness, self-understanding, conscience, and reason of which the animal is bereft. Although the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith necessarily employ different terminology, the religion endorses a perspective of the person as having a higher nature developed to fulfill the individual’s potential and spiritual destiny.
Analysis of the three psychological theories indicates that the perspective of Abraham Maslow, expressing belief that human nature is basically neutral or good, is most akin to the Bahá’í view that the individual reality rests between higher and lower natures, having the potentiality for evil as well as good. Although Rogers’ view that the person both is fundamentally good and is moving in a positive trajectory might be likened to the Bahá’í concept of the soul with respect to a general directionality of an approach toward God in realms beyond the present existence, the religion emphasizes that it is in the current world the exercise of volition is required, in keeping with its identification of the purpose of the temporal realm as a spiritual training ground. This religious concept necessarily underscores the importance of education, identifies the role of the Prophets as Divine Educators, and presents the laws of authentic Revelation as highlighting potential types of distortion of human nature during the developmental process.
From a perspective that recognizes divine Authority and an essential compatibility between true religion and science, there emerge obvious questions concerning the wisdom and efficacy of interventions based on partial, inadequate, or inaccurate conceptualizations of the individual’s true nature and essence. In addition to calling for reexamination of the concepts of soul and spirit as identified by religion, as well as the psychological impact of spiritual practices, it would appear that scientific findings concerning human consciousness and capacities, cross-cultural perspectives that counter prevailing psychological theories, and identifiable transient influences within the context of broader historical change, such as diminished parenting, evolution of gender roles, gross materialism, or a more general condition of spiritual bankruptcy, require closer scrutiny and evaluation. As an example noted in this last connection, the religion identifies materialism as nourishing “the falsehood that man is incorrigibly selfish and aggressive” (The Universal House of Justice, 1985, p. 7). Although Maslow and others have cited studies concerning synergistic societies and decried overemphasis on the lower nature of the individual, it appears that the findings of social psychology have yet to be integrated adequately into psychological conceptualizations and theories that guide clinical practice.
The Bahá’í concept, likening the inner nature of the person to a mirror that is capable of reflecting the signs of God, essentially represents a departure from all psychological theories that do not recognize the fundamentally spiritual essence of the person or credit the Source of higher attributes. Although the Bahá’í Writings leave no doubt with respect to the extraordinary capacities and “gem-like reality of man” (Bahá’u’lláh, 1971b, p. 77), the religion’s teachings concerning spiritual development indicate that egotistical ideas and behavior are dust and dross that distort the reflection of Divinity in the mirror of being. Further, the capacity of the individual to reflect or refract a fundamentally Divine light depends on the direction in which the mirror is positioned. Review of some of the religion’s teachings appears to indicate that the identification of the self with attributes and signs of God, in the absence of moral training or an internal reference to an essentially spiritual conceptual framework, can potentially inflate the ego of the lower nature, damage the individual’s character, and circumscribe personal development.
Although due credit must certainly be accorded to the enormous personal efforts and contributions of Rogers and Maslow with respect to effecting social change, their non- theistic views that individuals can rise to full psychological stature as members of the species and assume roles of exemplars and evolutionary guides to the rest of humanity did not adequately indicate how to prevent egoistical misuse of leadership. At the other extreme and by contrast, Jung’s historical perspective of Hitler appears to have conditioned his less optimistic view of human nature and disinclined adoption of a proactive stance with respect to the individual’s responsibility for societal conditions. What the authors did agree upon, and which the Bahá’í Faith clearly endorses, is that an external locus of evaluation and consequent blind imitation of others are not indicative of the healthy personality. The Writings of the religion further indicate that such practice stunts the mind and is the root cause of prejudice, which subverts the base of healthy civilization (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, 1982a). Rather, the healthy personality utilizes an intelligence that distinguishes the individual from the lower species, recognizes its own higher nature and purpose, and exercises conscience, reason, and volition as a unique individual functioning in relationship to spiritual verities, personal development, and conduct, as well as in maintaining a responsible relationship to the social environment.
Preliminary analysis of the Bahá’í concept of mental health suggests a number of areas in need of further study. Given the religion’s concept of evolution of the species, as well as Maslow’s perspective that too much emphasis has been placed on study of attributes that the individual shares with the animal species, it would appear that psychological theories and research studies have focused on the lower nature of the human being in the name of scientific objectivity, without incorporating relevant findings concerning the higher nature and greater human capacities that have emerged from the advancement of science. With respect to human development and progress, reference in the Bahá’í Writings predicting refinement of the human brain, and significant advances made in the study of human consciousness, it appears not only that the apparent lopsidedness requires greater consideration, but also that resistance to examination of the subject is worthy of study (Shoghi Effendi, 1974b).
The Bahá’í concept of human nature is in need of further exploration and explication, beyond that provided in a preliminary analysis. In addition to use of unpublished texts, it would appear that the teachings concerning Bahá’í education and moral development would be of particular relevance in shedding greater light on the subject. Further, additional study should be made of treatment resistant psychological conditions, with a view toward identifying those more appropriately understood as having emerged as distortions of human nature and therefore more likely to be responsive to realignment with the true nature of the individual, than current interventions geared toward changing of the personality. While the Bahá’í Faith affirms the use of psychotherapy for mental illness, it does not identify the practice as having a direct influence on the soul (Hornby, 1988).
Additional study should concern the psychological implications of belief in immortality, particularly in regard to social apathy and mental health. It would appear that the prevalence of existential ailments noted by Jung and the emphasis placed by Maslow upon having a calling or mission outside of oneself as reflective of the self-actualizing person speak to the importance of a sense of purpose and perspective of the temporal realm that engenders social action rather than isolation. This is consistent with Rogers’ view of the fully-functioning person as being both social and constructive, as well as the theistic conception of the Bahá’í Faith in which service to others is a spiritual tool that supplants self-interest on a spiritual path that extends beyond the current life. Research should also include examination of the prevalence of depression in the Bahá’í religious community, as contrasted with the larger society, in view of the extent to which it has identified the world as a workshop for spiritual advancement and has understood and utilized life experience within the context of spiritual purpose.
With reference to Rogers’ views concerning the role of an internal locus of evaluation as an element of mental health, additional study should concern Bahá’í practices that revolve around this concept. The process of spiritual development includes, among other things, independent investigation of the truth, avoidance of blind imitation, personal responsibility for growth, exercise of volition to engage in private spiritual practices, and the absence of clergy. Beyond a transitional period associated with conversion, relative differences between degree of internal locus of control might be observed between groups of individuals who have been Bahá’ís for a few years and those who have been members for decades.
Numerous other studies might further explore and
develop a Bahá’í concept of mental health. With respect
to Jungian archetypes, an examination should be conducted
of the attributes of the Supreme Concourse, as indicated
in the Bahá’í Writings. A psychological case study
of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as exemplar of the Bahá’í teachings,
would make a major contribution to an understanding
of the concept of the healthy personality, and is in
keeping with the views of Rogers and Maslow concerning
the need for fully-functioning, self-actualized individuals
to serve as models and evolutionary guides. Analysis
of the psychological implications of individual Bahá’í
laws, as well as the concept of liberty, would provide
further elucidation. Although there is no blueprint
for spiritual development in the religion, the general
concept of detachment should be further explored as
a critical aspect of psychological maturation. Finally,
Maslow’s list of B-values should be extended by the
religion’s identification of the signs of God, which
the true inner nature of the individual is to reflect.
Noting Bahá’u’lláh’s (1971b) affirmation of the verse
“Man is my mystery, and I am his mystery”, the healthy
personality cannot be understood as a knowable static
condition or psychological end state, but one in which
the individual is evolving toward fuller expression
of the likeness and image of God.
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