LFA Café

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Psychology verses Spirituality
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September 24, 2001, 03:21:14 PM
­ Is psychology more practical than spirituality? Nothing is more practical
than spirituality. What can the poor psychologist do? He can only relieve
the pressure. I'm a psychologist myself, and I practice psychotherapy, and
I have this great conflict within me when I have to choose sometimes
between psychology and spirituality. I wonder if that makes sense to
anybody here. It didn't make sense to me for many years.

I'll explain. It didn't make sense to me for many years until I suddenly
discovered that people have to suffer enough in a relationship so that they
get disillusioned with all relationships. Isn't that a terrible thing to
think? They've got to suffer enough in a relationship before they wake up
and say, "I'm sick of it! There must be a better way of living than
depending on another human being." And what was I doing as a
psychotherapist? People were coming to me with their relationship
problems, with their communication problems, etc., and sometimes what I did
was a help. But sometimes, I'm sorry to say, it wasn't, because it kept
people asleep. Maybe they should have suffered a little more. Maybe they
ought to touch rock bottom and say, "I'm sick of it all. " It's only when
you're sick of your sickness that you'll get out of it. Most people go to
a psychiatrist or a psychologist to get relief. I repeat: to get
relief. Not to get out of it.

There's the story of little Johnny who, they say, was mentally
retarded. But evidently he wasn't, as you'll learn from this
story. Johnny goes to modeling class in his school for special children
and he gets his piece of putty and he's modeling it. He takes a little
lump of putty and goes to a corner of the room and he's playing with
it. The teacher comes up to him and says, "Hi, Johnny." And Johnny says,
"Hi." And the teacher says, "What's that you've got in your hand?" And
Johnny says, "This is a lump of cow dung." The teacher asks, "What are you
making out of it?" He says, "I'm making a teacher."

The teacher thought, "Little Johnny has regressed." So she calls out to
the principal, who was passing by the door at that moment, and says,
"Johnny has regressed."

So the principal goes up to Johnny and says, "Hi, son." And Johnny says,
"Hi." And the principal says, "What do you have in your hand?" And he says,
"A lump of cow dung." "What are you making out of it?" And he says, "A

The principal thinks that this is a case for the school
psychologist. "Send for the psychologist!"

The psychologist is a clever guy. He goes up and says, "Hi." And Johnny
says, "Hi." And the psychologist says, "I know what you've got in your
hand." "What?" "A lump cow dung." Johnny says, "Right." "And I know
what you're making out of it." "What?" "You're making a
psychologist." "Wrong. Not enough cow dung!" And they called him
mentally retarded!

The poor psychologists, they're doing a good job. They really are. There
are times when psychotherapy is a tremendous help, because when you're on
the verge of going insane, raving mad, you're about to become either a
psychotic or a mystic. That's what the mystic is, the opposite of the
lunatic. Do you know one sign that you've woken up? It's when you are
asking yourself, "Am I crazy, or are all of them crazy?" It really
is. Because we are crazy. The whole world is crazy. Certifiable
lunatics! The only reason we're not locked up in an institution is that
there are so many of us. So we're crazy. We're living on crazy ideas
about love, about relationships, about happiness, about joy, about
everything. We're crazy to the point, I've come to believe, that if
everybody agrees on something, you can be sure it's wrong! Every new idea,
every great idea, when it first began was in a minority of one. That man
called Jesus Christ --minority of one. Everybody was saying something
different from what he was saying. The Buddha- -- minority of
one. Everybody was saying something different from what he was saying. I
think it was Bertrand Russell who said, "Every great idea starts out as a
blasphemy." That's well and accurately put. You're going to hear lots of
blasphemies during these days. "He hath blasphemed!" Because people are
crazy, they're lunatics, and the sooner you see this, the better for your
mental and spiritual health. Don't trust them. Don't trust your best
friends. Get disillusioned with your best friends. They're very
clever. As you are in your dealings with everybody else, though you
probably don't know it. Ah, you're so wily, and subtle, and
clever. You're putting on a great act.

I'm not being very complimentary here, am I? But I repeat: You want to
wake up. You're putting on a great act. And you don't even know it. You
think you're being so loving. Ha! Whom are you loving? Even your
self-sacrifice gives you a good feeling, doesn't it? "I'm sacrificing
myself! I'm living up to my ideal." But you're getting something out of it,
aren't you? You're always getting something out of everything you do,
until you wake up.

So there it is: step one. Realize that you don't want to wake up. It's
pretty difficult to wake up when you have been hypnotized into thinking
that a scrap of old newspaper is a check for a million dollars. How
difficult it is to tear yourself away from that scrap of old newspaper.

Anthony DeMello, SJ

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