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In the early ’60’s, when I was an adolescent, the cutting edge of behavioral change was thought to be being explored by “Psychoanalysis.” This approach viewed the mind as having three fields of activity: the “Id,” [the “Es,” or “It”], the “Ego” [the “Ich” or “I”] and the “Super-ego” [the “Über-Ich” or “Over-I”]. It held that examining underlying feelings and repressed conflicts [i.e. between Id/Ego, Id/Superego and/or Ego/Superego] that had occurred early in life — i.e. making the “unconscious” into the “conscious” — could produce changes in current behavior more or less spontaneously.

“Id, ego, and super-ego [“It,” “I” and “Over-I”] are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction our mental life is described. According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego. The super-ego can stop one from doing certain things that one’s id may want to do.” [1]

If behavioral/emotional/cognitive progress are the only criteria for evaluating the usefulness of the approach, there are many indicators of its effectiveness. At the same time, “Psychoanalysis” itself gradually came to be seen as only one among several “cognitive” psychotherapeutic approaches, parelleled by the entirely separate approach of “Behaviorism” or “Behavioral Psychology,” which focused on changing behaviors themselves in a scientifically measurable way.

I was a “believer,” you might say. I hoped that psychoanalyis could not only resolve emotional/behavioral problems but even open up infinite possibilities in human growth.

In the same period, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a voice, not entirely a “lone” one, writing that “psychology/psychoanalysis” was exploring only a limited field of the mind!

For Maharishi, even the deepest, most repressed feelings and impulses were still part of  the “conscious mind”:

“Attempts to bring out suppressed memories of traumatic experience fathom only the deeper levels of the conscious mind.”  [2]

What more could there be?

“The mind at the deeper levels of the subconscious possesses the ability to experience the subtler levels of creation which lie beyond ordinary perceptions.” [3]

“Thinking is the basis of doing; what is the basis of thinking? To think, we have at least to be. Being is the basis of thinking…Being is the basis of all living.” [4]

Maharishi is saying that awareness is woefully limited until it expands to experience its own Source in Being.

Descarte’s “I think, therefore I am” becomes, in Maharishi’s paradigm, “I am, therefore I think!”

This perplexes most people. It suggests that our “existence” isn’t simply a by-product of our activity or material features. Rather, our “existence,” or “Being,” is the basis of all our other aspects! Typically, people believe the opposite. For example, in the original “Star Wars” film (“episode 4”),  the “Force” — the infinite source of power accessed by the Jedi knights — is described as produced by all living things, rather than as their source!

For Maharishi, everything included in Freud’s model of the mind and human growth [and other models — e.g. Erikson’s] still constitutes only the “conscious” mind! Such models were unaware of and omitted “Being” itself — a field of infinitely greater potential.  Thus, our “Being” is our “Self” — the higher, unchanging, immortal aspect of what we are, while all of our thoughts and feelings, even the most deeply “unconscious” ones, even our profoundest concepts and visions, constitute only our “self” — the finite, changing, mortal, individual expression of what, or “who” we are. All of our “developmental stages” occur in the “self,” while the “Self” of the new-born is precisely the same as the “Self” of the aged. One might become more aware of the Self throughout life, but the “Self” itself doesn’t change.

Rabbi Morris Lichtenstein, too, wrote of the two levels of the mind. “Being” or “Self” he called the “Divine Mind [in man]”. The part of the mind that experiences and decides he called “the human mind.” Yet, both levels exist in each of us:

“…although these two minds have distinct functions, fundamentally the human mind is an offshoot of the Divine Mind.” [5]

An even more traditional teaching is that the “World-to-Come” was created with the “Yud” of G-d’s Name, while this world was created with the “Heh”:

“…The Holy One, Blessed is He, created two worlds, one with a Heh and one with a Yud…Thus we see that this world was created with a Heh, and the World-to-Come was created with a Yud.” (Menachos 29b; arrived at by a Hebrew word-play)
Hence, we learn, the letter Yud represents the eternal reality of the World-to-Come. Indeed…it is precisely the simplicity of the Yud that makes it so fitting a symbol of the sublime world of Divine unity, Olam HaBah…
Therefore, the Yud represents the essence of who we are, the spiritual force that makes each and every one of us unique, and which drives us to accomplish in life. The more meaningful our accomplishments are, the more of the Yud within us we reveal…” [6]

In this teaching, the “Yud” is “the essence of who we are”; “Being,” the Self; the higher, unchanging level of our own mind! “Heh” is then the “self;” the finite, changing level of  our mind.

In Maharishi’s paradigm, then, all psychotherapy — behavioral or cognitive — takes place only in the “heh” level of the mind. Instead, human development requires an increasing awareness of the “Yud” level; what the Ari might call a “yihud” — a unification — with it.

Yet — to what place do I assign psychotherapeutic work?

First, I would have to say that, without denying the validity of Maharishi’s teaching, I don’t necessarily see it as either/or.

Yes — we should, in fact must, experience our Higher Self; our “Yud.” It is an ever-present peace, among many other things, in us. It is the true “stability” that one in psychotherapy is seeking. Psychotherapy, even as practiced 50 years after Maharishi first wrote his words, is not a tool to accomplish that, although one might have intermittent, unexpected experiences along the way. Psychotherapy doesn’t view that experience as necessary, promising instead to teach us more moderated or skillful responses to our experience: “I never promised you a rose garden,” in “Dr. Fried’s” (Dr. Frieda Fromm-Reichmann’s) famous quote from the novel of the same name. But neither does psychotherapy any longer perceive “spiritual experience” as necessarily avoiding or “escaping” problems. Several new approaches to “spiritual therapy” and “spiritual counseling” are in fact developing.

Yet — transcendental experience doesn’t always help in the process of day-to-day change. There are many times when we must make conscious choices in our behavior (including changes in thinking, á la Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), in order not to cause ourselves needless, continual upset and frustration. The peaceful sea will support us in a boat, but we can’t rock that boat as much as we want and expect never to end up in the water!

The resolution, as I see it, is to incorporate a transcending-technique into our lives, but to also apply the tools that psychotherapy offers — not to bring us to the Infinite within ourselves, but to help us grow in greater harmony with it!

To help us, one might say, connect our “Yud” with our “Heh.”

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[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id,_ego_and_super-ego

[2] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi; The Science of Being and Art of Living; International SRM Publications; © 1966; p. 218

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid., p. 32

[5] Lichtenstein, Rabbi Morris; Jewish Science and Health;  Jewish Science Society of Jewish Science, © 1925; p. 33

[6] http://www.torah.org/learning/perceptions/5769/pinchas.html