by B P Wadia 

© 2003 Online Teosofiska Kompaniet Malmö 


"European psychology deals with the how of the elimination of evil. Asiatic psychology with the unfolding of moral power, leading to intellectual enlightenment, both surcharged with peace."  -- FROM AN UNPUBLISHED LETTER

In the nineteenth century, the coarsening effects of materialistic science tarnished human thought. Man had to determine if he was on the side of the Angels or of the ape. A majority accepted their descent from the ape and became intelligent social animals at best. On the other hand, those on the side of the angels were mostly men of blind belief in some creed. Knowledge of their divine ancestry was available, but few made use of it.

In the twentieth century, technocracy has deepened the darkness of materialistic thinking. The social animal has deteriorated into a robot. One is speedy, automatic, and mechanically efficient. One turns out work, passing on from hard labor to questionable refreshment, snatches sleep, and then goes back to work again. The Machine dominates everything from the purchasing power of money to bread that one must procure.

The materialistic ideas and technological applications that dominate civilization today have ruined the refinements that endow life with beauty, dignity, and purpose.

Erich Fromm is a noted psychoanalyst whose previous books have given him the reputation of a clear and provocative thinker. His recently published Psychoanalysis and Religion -- a small volume worth perusing -- presents a true picture of the modern man and his religion.

"The threat to the religious attitude lies not in science but in the predominant practices of daily life. Here man has ceased to seek in himself the supreme purpose of living and has made himself an instrument serving the economic machine his own hands have built. He is concerned with efficiency and success rather than with his happiness and the growth of his soul. More specifically, the orientation that most endangers the religious attitude is what I have called the "marketing orientation" of
modern man."

What is his definition of religion?

"I want to make it clear at the outset that I understand by religion any system of thought and action shared by a group that gives the individual a frame of orientation and an object of devotion."

There are many good things in the volume, but Dr. Fromm's practical psychoanalytic therapy will not succeed when actually applied. He has quoted from different great religions of the ancient world. His chapter on "Some Types of Religious Experience" contains valuable remarks. Even so, his technique of adjustment needs revision.

Dr. Fromm's remedy of "adjustment" is an old method, well known to ancient Oriental Psychology. The great Gurus of old were not only teachers but also healers of souls. Their Compassion brought out the devotion of the disciple. Then the process of chelaship or psyche-adjustment began.

The Gurus had real insight and understanding. Adjusting the mind of the learners, they enabled them to develop the faculty of knowing more. They did not pour information into their pupils. They helped each to free his will from the bondage of desires -- the great disease. They inspired each to be an altruist, a humanist whose relations with kin and friends, with men and beasts, were according to Divine Ethics. This is a science in itself.

Western psychology refers in its classifications to mental states. The psychology of the Ancient East classifies moral states, treating the mental states as mere effects produced by moral conditions. Psychoanalysts like Dr. Fromm recognize this to some extent, but not enough to make their therapy uniformly successful.

Haltingly, slowly, western psychologists, psychoanalysts, and psychical researchers are nearing the domain of the Wisdom of the Oriental Sages. They would learn quicker to offer effectively aid were they to study with due humility the lore of ancient healers of the human soul.

From "Thus have I heard", pages 251-53. Utgiven av Indian Institute of World Culture, 1959.


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