Psychology as a function of culture
"Within the Western model, we recognize and define 'psychosis'
as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views 'reality' in a distorted way
and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore significant to note that
from the mystical perspective, our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis
in that it is suboptimal, has a distorted view of reality, and does not recognize
that distortion. Indeed, from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can
be defined as being trapped or attached to, any one state of consciousness, which
by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively 'real'." (Ram Sass)
theme: Within different cultural contexts, cultural belief systems form the
basis of cultural psychologies which in turn produce the social realities.
A 'psychology' is a model of human nature originating within a given cultural
context and its beliefs. The cultural beliefs become the premises upon which psychologies
are built. Different psychologies are produced within the context of cultural
belief systems. In this way the psychologies are consistent with cultural beliefs.
Freudian psychology is based on the pessimistic view of human nature which was
a part of the general beliefs of his culture. Freud accepted the traditional notion
of the basic 'evil' of human nature. He believed that the human individual is
naturally antisocial with 'antisocial instincts'. It was this belief which became
the premise upon which he built his psychology. The psychology produced within
a cultural context influences the culture. Cultural beliefs are formalized and
they permeate the culture when the psychology is popularized. A dynamic interplay
is set up between the psychology and cultural beliefs. The psychology becomes
a world view or 'paradigm' which is shared by all members of the community. The
paradigm is perpetuated and propagated in a socialization process of propaganda.
The social reality produced is considered 'normal' if it coincides with culturally
accepted behaviour. Normative reality which is validated by consensus becomes
the arbitrary convention. The psychology of Buddhism outlines four truths in the
prescription of mental training for the attainment of enlightenment. The first
is the 'noble truth' that 'all life is imbued with suffering.' The other three
truths show the way out of suffering. 'The cause of all suffering is attachment';
'the relief of suffering comes from the cessation of attachment'; and 'the cessation
of attachment comes from following the eightfold path of ethical living'. Most
cultural traditions acknowledge a wide spectrum of consciousness states or 'levels'.
The higher state or 'mind level' represents the innermost consciousness or 'supreme
identity' of humanness. The 'existential level' represents the level of identity
as a psychophysical organism existing in space and time. Influenced by the familial
and cultural context of the individual's experience, it is the source of rational
thought processes and personal will. The 'ego level' represents the state of mind
and body separation and the individual's identification with a self-image. The
'shadow level' represents those facets of the personality which are not accepted
at the 'ego level'. The different levels of consciousness are also known as 'modes
of knowing'. Each of the different modes represents a different level of expression
of the human consciousness. Each involves the functioning of the entire brain
but with a different part dominating. An individual's level of consciousness or
'state of awareness' determines their sense of identity or 'self'. The mind's
perception of self determines its thinking about itself and its perception of
the social reality. The levels are similar across different human societies and
cultures. It is the way in which they are perceived - the 'societal perception'
- which varies from one culture to another. Each of the modes of knowing has a
different function but whether or not that function is recognized depends on the
norms of the culture. Whether a given level is appropriate in a given social situation
depends on existent cultural norms and whether they fit with the accepted cultural
psychology. It is the cultural norms which determine people's state of awareness
and their perception of reality and human nature. All individuals in all cultures
have the potential for expressing the different levels of consciousness. They
all share the instinctive striving to attain awareness on the transpersonal level
of consciousnes i.e. happiness. The difference between the various psychologies
lies in the degree of emphasis which is placed on the different levels. The Western
psychology of behavioural science emphasizes the 'ego level' and the importance
of conditioned learning. The Eastern psychology of the consciousness disciplines
emphasizes the 'mind level' and the importance of altered states or 'meditation'.
The various 'psychologies' are complementary, each representing a different perspective
on the fundamental question 'what is human nature'? Each psychology is based on
a different model of human nature and its corresponding theory of human potential.The
different psychologies differ in the degree of emphasis which they place on the
various dimensions of the complex multidimensional human personality as a whole.
Implications for education: Traditional education is based on the paradigm of
behavioural psychology which emphasizes conditioned learning and indoctrination.
A new vision of education emerges with the integration of Western behavioural
psychology with Eastern consciousness discipline into a tranpersonal psychology.
Education is concerned with all aspects of human experience, inner experience
as well as outer, transpersonal experience as well as personal. All human individuals
have the capacity to transcend the limits of social conditioning and to take responsibility
for designing their lives in harmony with themselves, with others and with nature.
This is clear to those who commit themselves to the self-exploration and the self-knowledge
which is necessary for direct experience of the deeper nature of their being.
When the individual lives on the transpersonal level of consciousness, life is
experienced as an unbroken pattern of interconnection with all of life. The person's
conscious and direct engagement with life extends from the details of daily existence
to the largest scale features of cosmic existence. Living on the transpersonal
level makes it impossible to escape from worldly responsibilities. In the new
paradigm, the task of education as is to bring one's life and its diverse expression,
into increasingly conscious and harmonious alignment with the changing web of
relationships of which one is an inseparable part. links: Freud, evil, paradigm,
Buddhism, human nature, consciousness states, brain, behavioural science, consciousness
disciplines, traditional education transpersonal psychology Freud... Freud accepted
the traditional notion of the basic 'evil' of human nature. evil... Freud accepted
the traditional notion of the basic 'evil' of human nature. paradigm... A psychology
is a 'paradigm'. Buddhism... The psychology of Buddhism outlines four truths in
the prescription of mental training for the attainment of enlightenment. human
nature... Each psychology is based on a different model of 'human nature' consciousness
states... Most cultural traditions acknowledge a wide spectrum of consciousness
states or 'levels'. brain... Each involves the functioning of the entire brain
but with a different part dominating. behavioural science... The Western psychology
of behavioural science emphasizes the 'ego level' and the importance of conditioned
learning. consciousness disciplines... The Eastern psychology of the consciousness
disciplines emphasizes the 'mind level' and the importance of altered states of
or 'meditation'. traditional education... Traditional education is based on the
paradigm of behavioural psychology which emphasizes conditioned learning and indoctrination.
transpersonal psychology... A new vision of education emerges with the integration
of Western behavioural psychology with Eastern consciousness discipline into a