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Eugene Taylor’s "Healing Process" and EHEs
Rhea A. White
In A Psychology of Spiritual Healing (West Chester, PA: Chrysalis, 1997), psychologist and William James archivist Eugene Taylor takes a transpersonal approach to spiritual healing. There are many similarities, and some differences, between the spiritual healing process he describes and the EHE process I have outlined in several publications. A review I wrote of his book for Exceptional Human Experience, Vol. 16(1), 2000 serves as the basis for this Fellow Finder essay. In these essays I review the work of scholar writing about a subject area that overlaps with my work with exceptional human experience (EHE) and compare and contrast the two. For me, this is a useful exercise, because it acquaints me in some depth with another scholar’s view on subject matter of great interest to me. In the process, I often get new insights or ideas to use or respond to in setting forth the EHE concept.
The context for Taylor’s approach to healing is one that is mirrored in several portraits we have written about EHEers who were healed seemingly as an aftereffect of engaging in the EHE process. Taylor writes that this psychology of spirit and healing "is at once experiential, existential, and projective: psychology that, in all likelihood, is the primary vehicle through which not only self-healing but also spiritual growth and spiritual transformation take place" (p. 1). He goes on to list the characteristics of the language of interior experience that unfolds, which is very much like what we get when we ask people to write their EHE autobiographies. He says at base it is a form of interior monologue, which is experiential; "solitary, in the sense that it is forged by the individual alone, even though it may find corroboration from the experience of others" (p. 3); unique; and psychodynamic, in that energy can be transformed "from one state of consciousness to another" (p. 3). It is also visionary, in that it "involves the search for deep symbols that reflect the person’s singular destiny" (p. 4); and growth oriented, as it points to the transcendent. Taylor says "it should" (but I would say "it tends to") "inspire moral and aesthetic ends" (p. 4), and "it is grounded in the idea that transforming the present fragmented state into something more whole" is always a possibility.
These are all components that we have observed in studying the EHE process. I have not thought of it specifically as a healing process, though in the broadest sense it is. It is a healing process in that it makes a person more whole and fosters connectedness with ever more of what is, from starfish to the farthest galaxy. It also expresses the "highest experience or the farthest state the person has ever encountered" (p. 4), which is a general definition of an EHE. EHEs start the process, continue it, and being consciously in the EHE process is the primary end. Finally, he says this psychology "is predicated on an opening of the internal doors of perception" (p. 4), for which I use Tom Berry’s term inscendence. And these doors open into "an experience of something beyond the finite person, something more than the product of mere intellect, something beyond the bounds of material reality" (pp. 4-5). I could not agree more, and I refer to it most often as the MORE described in Varieties of Religious Experience by William James.
Taylor connects consciousness and healing as they occur in shamanism, psychotherapy, Brahmanic Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, altered states and healing among indigenous tribes, and the healings of Jesus. In a chapter on "the meaning of suffering," he connects the onset of healing with a change of heart, a metanoia, in which we "set aside" "rational thought" and withdraw our emotions from attachment to external objects and connect them with "higher levels of spiritual feeling" (p. 17). He describes an EHE he had at 7 years of age in which he experienced such a transmutation of his emotions. He cites several authors who emphasize, as he states it; that although we can distinguish "different kinds of healing, all healing … is essentially spiritual in nature" (p. 32). He describes three types of healing: physical, psychological, and spiritual, but once the doors of perception are opened to spiritual reality, which is superior to the merely rational state, "nature is no longer looked at as separate from divinity" (p. 45). There is a chapter devoted to the role belief plays in healing. For beliefs to change at a deep level, which is required for many serious medical problems, "consciousness must turn in upon itself" (p. 60). The turn within, usually following or initiating an EHE, is also the beginning of the EHE process. Turning inward "leads toward an opening of the internal source," and "the first thing we encounter is the domain of the imaginal" (p. 60).
This takes us to the entrance to the inner world, the first steps of inscendence. In the remainder of the book Taylor draws on his own experiences, with frequent reference to Swedenborg and William James, in describing various altered states and their potential healing benefits. There a chapters on the imaginal; mythopoeis, which is concerned with creative states; internal states of heaven and hell; the speech of angels; and the highest consciousness state.
Taylor observes that the process of self-realization [i.e., the EHE process] is also aimed at self-integration, in which "people speak to different aspects of themselves almost as if each aspect were a different personality, and that this dialogue proceeds along definite lines of inquiry that promote intuitive insight, inspirational conclusions [i.e., the Experiential Paradigm], and a form of healing that is the source of recovery" (p. 115). Engagement in this process enables us to understand personally the meaning of the term "dynamic psychology of inner experience" (p. 115), which he points out James noted was the primary focus of religious experience as revealed in "the lives of individuals, in their accounts of what happened to them—in other words, his basic data [were] living human documents" (p. 116). He notes that "James maintained the truths of these ultimately transforming experiences [i.e., EHEs] can be tested in terms of these practical results in our daily lives" (p. 117). [Thus, to be further parenthetical, the work of the EHE Network is squarely in line with James’s proscriptions. We collect accounts of transformative experiences; we elicit lifelong EHE autobiographies; we concentrate on the aftereffects of a broad range of anomalous experiences and anomalies of experience. What we are learning from these personal records of experience is that the unique individuality is in essence global, and beyond that, cosmic.]
He presents three outstanding EHE accounts and notes that these interior experiences are associated with all the world’s religions. He takes issue with the view that all religions lead to the same place. Certainly as regards doctrine, there are differences. But Taylor seems to find a common ground, which is spiritual healing, which he suggests "means coming into the presence of these higher states" (p. 131). He further points up the relationship between healing and higher states of consciousness by listing 12 laws of spiritual healing, all of which point to the basic fact that "healing always involves the experience of higher consciousness" (p. 137).
My studies of exceptional human experiences have indicated that although many experiences differ, their import is largely the same. I would not characterize healing as the only aftereffect, though it is a major one. I would say a sense of interconnectedness was the major one: connectedness at the intrapersonal level, and also with other people, other species, the planet, the universe, and ultimately, with the divine. However, I work from a base of seven broad types of anomalous experiences, only one of which consists of healing experiences, whereas Taylor seems concerned, as was James, primarily with the mystical type of experience. However, in a broader sense, the more than 200 types of exceptional experiences I study often have a mystical component, and even when not, they have a mystical import.
A key chapter is one on "healing personalities." He proposes that every person is called to be a healer, but only a fraction may choose the medical profession. Moreover, although we can only find our own spirituality by going within, what we discover must be lived out in the world. If everyone is a healer of some kind, he asks not "what is the personality of the healer?" but "How do I actualize that part of my own personality that has the power to heal spiritually?" To develop our healing capacity, "analytical and abstract thinking must give way to intuitive insight and to the domain of the imaginal." The spiritual dimension of personality lauds "the devotional, the attitude of faith, the sense of the intuitive" (p. 152). He insists (and I agree) that it is possible to transcend ego-consciousness and material reality. But, as he says, what the people who deny it are really revealing is that such a state thus far "is simply not within the realm of their experience, or not within their comprehension" (p. 153).
On the other hand, I do not agree with him that "egolessness, even if it is only a transitory state, is the means by which awareness is permitted to enter into internal domains beyond cognitive thought and discursive language" (p. 153). To go beyond ego is literally to transcend ego—at the very limit of the other direction, which is the Self that is All Things. There the ego may truly be left behind, but for most of us it is still there, even though it is no longer in command. And it has an essential role to play in serving as mediator with other states of consciousness within and with the multimedia presence of the outer world.
He highlights two main points: "we are mere conduits for a higher power" in states of spiritual healing. "We are not necessarily that power" (p. 153). Second, psychic phenomena do occur, but, they (as traditional religions would have it) "are byproducts of self-knowledge—nothing more" (p. 154). Here I agree that their purpose "is not to find the perfect mate or lost wallets or missing dead bodies" (p. 154), but I find they are also not simply "guideposts to one’s level of spiritual progress" (p. 154) but play an active role in forwarding the spiritual (or as I prefer, EHE) process. This cannot be seen, as a rule, without studying long-range personal accounts of parapsychological experiences, though a glimpse can be gained from many accounts of individual experiences.
Taylor observes that once a person has experienced healing, "a fundamental transformation takes place in personality" (p. 165). I agree, if we are referring to spiritual healing. Allopathic medicine returns people to the status quo. This type of healing is not an exceptional human experience. Of those that are, common aftereffects he lists are gratitude, selflessness, and a sense of connectedness, which he beautifully expresses as deeply penetrating "into the fabrics of all who have ever lived" (p. 167). [This is true of almost all EHEs, not just healing ones. My studies of personal accounts reveals that also included are the "fabrics" of all species and the inanimate world as well. The whole creation, including the universe itself.] Also notable are a sense of obligation to others, to serve; a sense of loving presence may be experienced, and recognition that "our obligation as the healed is to do our best to actualize our own capacities because this effort is the most important contribution we can make to the lives of others" (p. 175). This is similar to our findings on the role EHEs play in finding one’s personal vocation.
In a final chapter on death, he points out that if we associate healing with consciousness and vice versa, "the traditional ways in which we have framed illness, disease, infirmity, and death become transformed. Personality becomes something else—higher, deeper, wider, and more encompassing than mere science can articulate" (pp. 191-192). Amen to that! And we are back again to William James’s MORE!
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