14 Spirituality Studies 9-1 Spring 2023 For most people in the present day, the consciousness that we inhabit is not a friendly one; rather, it betrays a myriad of hostilities that serve to undermine our vision of the transpersonal Self. In such cases, our mind is our worst enemy. By means of the contemplative practices found in humanity’s spiritual traditions, we can glean ways of grounding our thoughts and emotions in our moment-to-moment experience through an abiding connection to the sacred. Without a “vertical” perspective on the metaphysical basis of consciousness, we will become captive to the fragmented excrescences of our cognition. To ignore this is, in a sense, to throw ourselves out to sea in the midst of a storm, the consequences of which can be deleterious to our psychological well-being. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate that modern Western psychology has failed to understand the enigma of consciousness due to its reductionist assumptions and its uncritical reliance on Cartesian bifurcationism. A proposed remedy for this failure is to adopt a proper “science of the soul,” which is found in all of the world’s religions, where the sacred remains pivotal to an authentic understanding of the person. A comparative methodology grounded in epistemological pluralism has been used to critically examine the claims of modern psychology in light of the deeper insights found across humanity’s spiritual cultures. 2 Consciousness and Modern Psychology The genesis of the desacralized and reductionist outlook that dominates psychology today is likely to be found in the ideas of John Locke (1632–1704), one of the most influential thinkers of the European Enlightenment. To him was attributed the theory of empiricism and the associated notion of tabula rasa, whereby human beings are considered to be born with a “clean slate” or “blank canvas” rather than being an image of the Divine. The foundations of modern psychology – especially behaviorism and psychoanalysis – need to be understood for what they are: namely, an unbridled assault on what it means to be fully human. Any so-called psychology that abolishes the soul and Spirit, and regards the mind or consciousness as a mere epiphenomenon, is not a true “science of the soul.” In the winter of 1913, John B. Watson (1878–1958), known as the “father of behaviorism,” delivered a lecture at Columbia University entitled Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It, which became widely known as the “behaviorist manifesto.” This address inaugurated one of the most powerful currents in 20th-century psychology. Watson’s (1913, 163, 177) attack on the “science of the soul” is usefully encapsulated as follows: The time seems to have come when psychology must discard all reference to consciousness; when it need no longer delude itself into thinking that it is making mental states the object of observation… This suggested elimination of states of consciousness as proper objects of investigation in themselves will remove the barrier from psychology which exists between it and the other [note: modern] sciences. Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), who developed the psychoanalytic “talking cure” and laid the foundations for the discipline of modern psychology, also had a reductionistic interpretation of the mind (1963, 144): [T]he ‘essential nature’ of consciousness: we see the process of a thing becoming conscious as a specific psychical act, distinct from and independent of the process of the formation of a presentation or idea; and we regard consciousness as a sense organ which perceives data that arise elsewhere. Although Freud’s one-time protégé, Carl Jung (1875–1961), is often considered a pioneer of transpersonal psychology who recognized the need to include the spiritual dimension in psychology. Nevertheless, his own interpretation of consciousness is limited to the empirical ego and does not encompass anything that is transcendent to it: “Consciousness is the function or activity which maintains the relation of psychic contents with the ego” (Jung 1923, 536); or “Consciousness can only exist through continual recognition of the unconscious” (1980, 96). In this context, Cyril Burt (1883–1971) offers this assessment of the discipline: “Psychology, having first bargained away its soul and then gone out of its mind, seems now, as it faces an untimely end, to have lost all consciousness” (1962, 229). Since its emergence, modern Western psychology has not been able to establish a healthy epistemological pluralism to support both the ordinary and transpersonal dimensions of mind, seeing as it has abandoned its roots in metaphysics and spiritual principles. When souls are living in a state of forgetfulness, their consciousness is obscured. This prevents them from truly knowing themselves, as they fail to see that the endless stream of thoughts in the mind has an ontological status that is only contingent or provisional. What is required for a proper and abiding psychological orientation is to stabilize one’s psychic center, by having it anchored in a reality that is transmundane.