Have you ever said or did anything that was unintentional and out of character for you, and you regretted it later on? A moment of madness. Or the opposite of it, you ended up saying the right thing at the spur of the moment without giving it a proper thought. How do you explain this? Do you feel fully responsible for such occurrences?
Is it an impulse from your unconscious mind breaking through into your conscious mind due to its sheer force? or something external triggering things inside you or this external force or energy taking charge of your conscious thought process and making things happen.
Conventional wisdom dictates that if a phenomenon can be explained on the basis of scientific knowledge there is no need to invoke any supernatural or paranormal explanations. This statement begets a question as to what is scientific and what is unscientific.
What was unscientific in the past has become scientific now. If someone was told a hundred years ago that it was possible for someone to be heard and seen thousands of miles away, they would have laughed at it and said it was unscientific or stuff from fairy tales but this has come true. What was the stuff from science fiction some fifty years ago is now hard-core science within the realms of artificial intelligence and other such fields.
Extrapolating from that, one can imagine that there are many beliefs, such as the Devil and angels, that can’t be explained on the basis of science in its present incarnation, it doesn’t mean they can’t become scientific in the future.
One might argue that being a man of science I shouldn’t talk about the Devil or angels but I must say a large proportion of my psychotic patients do remain obsessed with thoughts of angels and the devil influencing them and trying to control them. Their symptoms and unhappiness are linked with such thoughts. It is therefore my duty to try and make sense of these phenomena from a psychological point of view.
Science grew as a revolt against religion, and it became fashionable to reject everything that was linked with religion as unscientific unless proved otherwise. Certain ideas could neither be proved nor disproved such as the idea of the existence of God, hence they got relegated to the domains outside that of science.
The majority of scientists don’t say that things that can’t be proved or disproved don’t exist, in fact, many of them do believe in things that can’t be proved using logic and the scientific paradigms currently available to them. It is quite possible that things labeled unscientific now can become scientific in the future.
A belief in psychic energy or human consciousness operating beyond the bounds of the human body is still new to science, partly because science has never made it a subject matter for study in its own right. It is likely that with the advent of energy medicine it would become possible to map out energy patterns from within the human body and outside of it, and with this understanding, doctors will be able to diagnose illnesses before they appear on the physical plane.
At a psychological plane, science is still at a loss trying to explain the phenomena of synchronicity, prayer, passion, love, etc. Jung has written in his books about having visions of someone drowning and soon after got the news that exactly at the same hour and minute a relative of his was drowning at a faraway place. He also described his visions of blood and massacre happening all around just before the second world war broke out. A spiritual teacher in India said to his students that he was drowning off the coast of Japan, and later that day it was in the news that a ship had sunk in the sea off the coast of Japan.
I believe all these phenomena can be explained scientifically when scientific theories and methods become more advanced.
Modern psychology has understood the human mind in terms of the four categories of the mind – conscious, preconscious, unconscious, and collective unconscious, assuming that good and bad elements exist at all these four levels.
According to spiritual traditions, there is something called superconscious, which opens up the possibility of moving upwards as well, not just digging into the unconscious. In the Eastern traditions these are called samadhi states and in Christianity the Christ consciousness or the Holy ghost. Science has not yet acquired a reasonable understanding of human consciousness and all its variants. They have tried to relegate all such phenomena to the realm of the unconscious – hence Jung had to invent a term called collective unconscious and attributed a higher level of intelligence and also positivity to it, which was not the case with psychoanalytic theories before him.
Science has now proved that no individual is an island and the boundaries between the physical structure of an individual and their environment are not that firm – we breathe the same air, share millions of bacteria, chemicals in water, and in the food supply. And there is a constant exchange of physical elements between the individual and their environment. Transpersonal psychology reminds us that psychologically also we are deeply connected with people in the transpersonal space which has the potential of enriching us or depleting us. It is therefore important that we are aware of such exchanges so that we can periodically detoxify ourselves from or enrich ourselves with our environment at all levels – physical, emotional, thought, intention, impulse, and spiritual.
Jung used the term collective unconscious to make sense of the psychological influences affecting our lives which we can’t understand on the basis of our experiences of this lifetime, and we are governed by certain archetype which is located in the collective unconscious – but one would like to know from where has the material in the collective unconscious come – there must be several input/output channels connecting the collective unconscious with us as well as other beings. If we are connected with the collective unconscious which doesn’t have firm boundaries, what are the chances that we are safe from the negative energies held up there? Powerful stuff is coming into our minds that we have not created, and it’s not a part of our past history and is influencing us in a big way.
It is quite possible what religious people call “the Devil” is in fact nothing but a part of the collective unconscious, and we are getting influenced continually on a daily basis, and this influence impinges on our conscious mind from outside of our personal being.
From a scientific point of view what we call angels or evil spirits may not be living beings but masses of energy that filter through our unconscious and conscious minds, and if one just wants to study the unconscious and collective unconscious minds – they have found a scientific explanation for these out of character occurrences, but that doesn’t seem to be a complete explanation. Why and from where in the first place these forces enter into the collective mind, what external forces the collective unconscious mind is subjected to.
So far we have tried to understand the idea of the devil from the perspective of the collective unconscious, that it’s the negative energy coming out from the collective unconscious. It is also possible that what we know as the Devil could just be our own free will that operates from our unconscious mind without us being aware of it. Nature has given us free will to act in undesirable ways as well. When this intentionality comes from our unconscious mind and affects our conscious mind, it does appear as coming from outside.
Let us imagine a situation where a father makes his son subservient to his wishes and forces him to do all the right things, the son has no free will of his own and he is doing all the right things following the dictates of his father. What would you say about this relationship? Is it a true father-son relationship, or that of a master-servant or man-machine. You will not respect such a father.
It is said that God/Nature/Existence created human beings in its own image and gave them free will in the same way it had it. A creator God or nature who had created human beings without giving them any free will, making them subject to all sorts of forces outside their willpower, and suffering or enjoying, as a result, can’t be described as a fair, true creator or father. He will be described as a selfish being who created a puppet to play with for his own satisfaction. On the other hand, to be compelled to do things by the dictates of your own instincts and habits is also not freedom. To be good because you have been so for a long time and to refrain from evil because you are accustomed to doing so is also not freedom.
Yogananda has said in his book – Second coming of Christ, “God gave independence to the human soul as well as to other cosmic beings. And exercising their free will some of them chose to turn against God.” He further describes in the same book – God could destroy the negative forces (Satan) even now and free us at once from the thralldom of earthly miseries, imperfections, broken hearts, and death, by using His Almighty material force, but He would not do that because that would be taking away our independence. Since God gave independence to man, He can free them only through teaching them the right use of their own power of free choice.”
Yogananda further says, “he (God) is continuously trying to use the superior force of his Love expressed as the parental, friendly, filial and all-surrendering pure conjugal love to coax the man to forsake his cooperation with evil, which helps and strengthens it to destroy him.
Yogananda says, “even if the conscious evil force of Satan does exist, it could not influence our minds if we did not mentally accept it. It is better to know all the lures of evil and the ways to combat them than to be blind and deny their existence. Knowledge only, and not indifference, can produce final emancipation. The great drama of Cosmic existence has endowed man with free choice and the power of reason. Man, the image of God, has the same liberty or free choice in his sphere as God the Father has.”
I have come across people who believe in angels but not in the demon, although from a scientific point of view one has to stretch one’s imagination equally to have a belief in angels as well.
Let us examine things from a scientific point of view. Let us imagine there is no God or a creator, but just a creation. There is cosmic energy with its positive and negative forces. The negative forces are all-pervading, we don’t have to invoke God for that. The negative energy of the physical plane is poisonous plants, bacteria, and viruses, harmful animals, psychopathic human beings, computer viruses, etc. On the psychological plane, our own unconscious mind has got negative forces that can’t be eliminated without transcending our human nature. These negative forces in our unconscious mind have intentionality of their own and don’t need permission from our conscious mind to counter or overpower our conscious thinking process. A weak conscious thought process, which will result from not exercising our free will properly, will make us a sitting duck that can be attacked anytime by the intentionality of our unconscious mind.
We often have an understanding of the Devil and angels from movies and print literature where things are blown out of proportion to have an effect. The reality is not as horrible or as miraculously good as we read in the literature and see in films. But a careful examination of our everyday life will tell us that there were times we were protected from a disaster by to a quick decision or impulse on our part that we can’t claim credit for. Or we come out with a single statement, totally unintended or unthought of that spoils the whole deal for us or kills a project we were looking forward to very much.
At times we have a great time in certain situations, gatherings, and outings with certain people, there is magic in the air, and if we want to recreate the same magic by meeting up with the same people at the same place, the magic is gone.
Some stage actors and speakers have reported their experiences whilst performing on stage, they ended up saying something profound that they had not planned to say, and if we ask them to repeat the same performance for the next show or speech they won’t be able to do so.
Many spiritual leaders doesn’t plan anything for their public speeches, they just turn up and say what comes to their mind, being in total surrender to nature, in line with Jesus’s guidance – don’t worry about what and how you are going to say, it will be given to you in that hour.
Perhaps these phenomena can also be easily explained by a psychoanalyst on the basis of the workings of the unconscious mind..
Once I asked my teacher – Do ghosts or angels exist? He simply said, “the scientific evidence is overwhelmingly against such an idea, but public belief is overwhelmingly in favor of it.”
The notion of higher forces, good and bad, influencing our lives is deeply rooted in our minds, and total denial of them would be tantamount to denying a part of our Being.
Perhaps scientific research in the future in this area will be able to solve this mystery for us,
© Kishore Chandiramani, Consultant Psychiatrist
Emotions clinic, Education and Training Centre, Staffordshire, UK