Bernard M. AURIOL, before his psychoanalytic training, had acquired basic knowledge about philosophy and theology (ofm cap. 1956 - 1962). He is Medicine Doctor, specialised in Psychiatry. He contributed to many scientific journals and has written three books (translated in several languages ) on the subject of Yoga, Relaxation, and 'Psychosonics' : 'Yoga and Psychotherapy', 'Bringing in relaxation methods', "The Key of Sounds'.
(Lyon, 19 et 20 Mars 1994)
Besides the imposing stream of psychoanalysis with its all Californian tributaries , some of therapists (first of all Philo of Alexandria) stand up for the idea that relaxing the muscles and developing inner life could lead to equilibrium, and even to wisdom.
From etymology : relax is release the prisoner I am, get out of slavery, remission of penalty, diminution of strictness, give up. That's going to a lesser kind of release, that of muscles tension, their link with anguishes from the past ...
Heavy Past which grips tightly, constrains, leads us out of the united functioning way, building fences and walls, not only between the others and oneself, but also between oneself and oneself !
Our concern is to cast off the yoke which hinders innermost exchanges, these transactions which set up me as a functioning oneness, structured Unit; out of those exchanges I get to be nothing but set of speck of dust, but scattering of dealings restricted to be back reactions.
From this psychophysiologic give up the person can have access to a more opened perception, great simplicity, more general and deeper silence; until giving the localised, together restricted and inflated ego up, and come by the meditation process up to ones subjective being, unreachable source, unfailing springing , without overpower nor servitude.
Neuroticism can't block this way. Psychological conflicts on the contrary, will be soothed by meditation which will promote their solution by suitable means (for instance some kind of admitted psychotherapy). Not only relief, but even more if perseverance : real liberation.
We have three 'Liberations' (Sanskrit : 'Moksha') :
1) respect to conditions
2) respect to desires
3) by vacuity
'Relaxer' (French, XIVth century) meant "to its convenient put off": that fits to describe the basic condition of this fourth state of consciousness : paradoxical waking. Mind and body take hold of vigilance without care about everyday concerns. The matter is 'put off', allow oneself a break, give oneself room, get into a temporary renouncement, in a way, wait for the act took its source from the acting being. In such a state you forget to behave well or badly as you give a sharp edge to the state yourself into the source of Making. That's more than 'purifying of intentions' (which gives you but a small backward movement), that's straight vanishing of them. Other name for Renouncement.
Sweep back, just for a while, from that we tend to, that 'here and there' small point, and have a view towards the underlying fullness. Dom Chautard claim (in "L'Ame de Tout Apostolat"), acting, even in a very active and devoted way, could lead us to any words far from The Verb and behaviours far from The Act : fruitlessly fights, idle talks, for nothing : symptoms.
We know several types of meditation. Everyone of them shows a set of physiological features that we can find in guided dream (after Desoille) and relaxation methods as well. I assume it exists et we will try to consider some psychological - and 'nousological' - features too,
'Nousological' is a neologism - after Thérèse Brosse - to mean the scientific approach of Spirituality as a behavioural phenomenon. We point out the outstanding value of this side in relaxation and, above all, in meditation experiences. Every civilisation built its own technical way toward that I call, not only "Altered State of Consciousness", but "Paradoxical Awake State".
'Meditation' comes from Latin 'meditari' which means "exercise", "turn something over in one's mind", "think, consider".
The Indo-European root is "*med-" i.e. "measure". The word "mederi" means "take care" from which we got "medicine, medical" and the like.
As a matter of fact any shape of meditation needs, more and more exercise, exercise, and again exercise ! Never stopping to do, never neglecting it !
For the westerner theological literature the word meditation refers just to "thinking, imagining with a deliberate religious purpose". I think it should be used in that way. They use another term, such as "contemplation, Orison" (from Latin : oratio, oro, orare) when the process reaches the Silence of the powers of the Soul. is found likewise in other binomials such as : mystic/ascetic, purgative life / illuminative life (after St Bonaventure).
Relaxation comes from Latin. It is composed of prefix "Re-" : meaning "back" or "again" and "-laxatio". This latter Latin root is itself derived from "laxus" : left, dropped, soft, falling, flaccid. This term is likely related to Greek "": to cease, abandon, finish, rest, calm down". Laxus has given laxatio which means "abandoned place, empty space".
One can therefore translate "relaxation" by "come back to an empty space". In the common Latin and in its first occurrences in French (XVIIth century), "relaxation" takes on legal meaning of "widening a prisoner" i.e. freeing him. One can infer that "relax myself" is "to free the prisoner that I am, to get out of slavery , to let go.
This is to move towards a minor form of liberation, that of muscular tensions, anguish that they express, the past that is clotted in these strains. A past that weighs, strains, constrains, diverts from a unified action, settling barriers and walls, not only between myself and My Self, but also between myself and the other ones.
The question then is to get rid of barriers that encumber the exchanges within oneself; these very transactions that constitute me as a Functioning Unit, a Structured Unit; exchanges out of which I can only become dust, the scattering of schemes reduced to Reactions.
With this psychophysiological letting go the person can open oneself to a wider perception, to a larger simplification, to a more general and deeper silence; to even give up himself as a localised ego, both confined down and puffed up. Meditate in order to access his being of Subject, elusive source, vernal spring up, without mastery nor servitude.
The fact that some people be victims of internal conflicts which impede their social adaptation could not block this process, if they sought to undertake it. Instead these conflicts could find, through meditation, an appeasement that will help their resolution by appropriate means (for example an accepted form of psychotherapy).
(in Sanskrit "Moksha") can be perceived according to at least three modes :
1) liberation in relation to conditions
2) liberation in relation to desires
3) liberation by vacuity
These three modes, we transpose them easily in the three meanings of the word "relaxation":
1) liberation of present concerns and conditions, consciousness of the impermanence of every form.
2) keeping everything at distance, climbing above inward or outward formations, renouncement of fruits of actions.
3) return to the vacuum space, realisation of the unbearable levity of beings.
"To relax", during the XIVth century has taken on the meaning of "to postpone": this suits us well to describe the first condition of this fourth state of consciousness, the paradoxical awake state. In this state of consciousness, mind and body remain alert without focusing on present concerns. They are able to postpone everything, giving themselves a delay in the course of the Action, as important as it might be, they are able to put a distance, to back themselves, to enter a renouncement, to wait "the doing" resource oneself in the doing being. One forgets then to be badly or well doing to settle oneself back in the straight thread of the source of "the doing". It is more than the "purification of intentions" that gives oneself just a little backward motion, it is squarely annihilation of intentions. Yet an other name for renouncement.
Flowing back, for a while, from that we intend to, from this detail, which holds us, here and now, toward what undertake this process, the Source-Being.
Dom Chautard claims (in his precious book "L'Ame de Tout Apostolat"), acting, even in a very active and devoted way, without meditation could lead us to any kind of words, away from The Verb and to any behaviours away from The Act : actions that do nothing, words that do not tell something, inhabited by stuff trifles, bordering on crumbling and absence, empty shells !
In the history of European spirituality we would have to examine the contribution of Beghards, Molinos and quietists like Mrs Guyon and more orthodox currents, as well : Saint Denys Aeropagite, Saint Bonaventure, Saint François de Salle, Fénelon, etc.
In old French, "begart" and "beguin" (XIIth and XIIIth centuries) mean "simple-minded heretic". The word likely comes from the Dutch "beggen" (means beggar) or from the Old German "begum" (to pray). this name, spelled "Beghard" was given to a movement that was at the origin of quietism. Notice this bond between prayer and poverty : leave everything and everybody with the hope to reach the "Summum Bonum", Being. Very outstanding mystics and their followers in our western culture (cf. St François of Assisi and the "begging orders"), in the middle eastern culture (the anawim, the foqqa ra) or in the far eastern one (the sadous) have the like features.
Beghards are mocked and qualified as silly, simplistic. This was the lot of many mystics who reaching the perfect joy used not to care of it.
Some of the Beghards saw their principles condemned at the Council of Vienna (1311-1312). Marguerite Porée was even burnt alive in 1310. They supported in advance molinist doctrines. Here is their main assertions such as condemned by Catholic Church :
1) rites and external prayers have no value at all: silent orison only counts
2) the human being can enjoy here-on earth the final beatitude through acquired contemplation
3) deification of the human being can be, here on earth, entirely achieved
4) everything is pure for the realised man , including sexual relationship out of wedlock.
During the XVIIth century the quietist movement sees its description and its condemnation especially in the work of Michel de Molinos that asserted that :
1) The knowledge of God is solely of a negative nature
2) It is necessary to adopt a passive attitude when temptation occurs
as 66 other assertions that were considered heterodox.
One can see that several of these assertions could apply as well to some outstanding figures of Hinduism. But, as therapists, it is not our role to say what, on a philosophical level, is right or wrong.
This term is encountered in French as early as in the XIVth century and is found even earlier since the Latin people employ "mysticus" and the Greeks "mustikoV" (mustikos). It derives from "musthrion" which gave "mysterium", then "mystery" and finally "musths", meaning "initiated to mysteries". The Sanskrit gives us "mustika" with the meaning of "who belongs to a sect or a clan".
The usage of Roman Catholic Church refers this term to one of the two large ways of the spiritual life. By opposition to ascetic theology that describes active purification methods and mastery of self, mystical theology is interested in spiritual experiences as such. These experiences are linked to a rather receptive attitude, if so it be that not merely passive (contemplative life).
In fact, mystical life is found in all cultures and all cults, even in atheism itself, as Geneviève Lanfranchi has testified and from an other point of view, the works of Georges Bataille. According to the philosopher André Lalande, "what seems specific to these states is on the one hand the depreciation and, so to speak, deletion of sensitive symbols and notions of discursory or abstracted thought; and on the other hand the direct contact and the 'immediation' of the spirit with the Absolute Reality possessed in itself". It is an affective as well as intellectual approach, a real voyage towards knowledge according to the metaphor of Parmenid and Lao Tzeu.
There is two kind of a mysticism : mysticism of immanence and mysticism of transcendence. For Henry Le Saux and I share his opinion, these theological and ideological concepts, tend to confuse at the level of experience. Even though his own normal ideology, as far as he is a catholic monk, constrains him to describe his experience rather ecstatic than enstatic. Likewise, the ideological speech contaminates the talks of spiritual seekers victimised by their orthodoxy : they wonder whether they are come into contact with the Transcendent Cause of all things or just with His "terrestrial transcription" (a sort of intermediary called "acute pin of the soul", "secret cavern of the heart", etc.).
The ec- or en- static experiences lead to feelings of fulfilment, bliss and the like. Is it an avatar of psychedelism ? an equivalent of drug addiction ?
Each Society has its drug(s), ranging from opium and coca to alcohol or Kif; it also has its mysticism and sometimes valorises this type of approach so much that to maintain innumerable monks for an activity of no profit. Sort of "potlatch" of human activity, sacrifice of a "cursed share" of Thought, burnt to no purpose for some Manitu, Great Being who surpasses everything even though the smoke of their sacrifice entails impressive actions with unexpected wonderful consequences as did : Thérèse d'Avila, François Bernardone, Gandhi and so many others....
1) Some delirious patients have experiences of mystical appearance
2) Great mystics have had themselves sometimes experiences of an hallucinatory type.
3) They describe motives, means, states of consciousness,
physiological effect of their practices.
I do not want to approach here at mysticism in pathology. I would like to signal however that one hitherto has had too tendency to use religious criteria for the medical appraisal of such phenomena. Criteria that allow to separate the "mystical saint" of one who lost one's way concerns psychiatrist only to as much they refer to social maladjustment. Whether these phenomena produce piety or impiety, whether the writer who reports them hold fast to some orthodoxy or not, etc. are irrelevant.
Those experiences are generally considered as subordinate, beneficent or harmful according to the case. They very often realise desires of the experiencer, alike the Freudian dream. But, here at a rough guess, implied desires are very often conscious : I desired a fruit and I have felt its juice pervaded my mouth, I swallowed it, enjoyed fully it. However, muscles the most often remain motionless.
Among those phenomena we can count voices, visions and the totality of events that one generally qualified as "supernatural", such as stigmata, jumps of frog (so called levitation) and the like. These experiences are sometimes felt as private and we may know them merely through confidences. They are sometimes claimed, published as records due to teach the Way. If some raving conviction, we have to notice it is waited, valorised by the social group. So, the society define "true revelations" and false other ones. The latter are referred to Satan or Hysteria according to what is on.
That is the Social System which suggests experience, promotes it and validates itself by it. On the contrary Cantianille (XIXth century) is condemned with bishop who agreed her revelations about "the appalling morals" of the local priests (Tanquerey, N° 1502).
Motivation of the mystic seems to be linked to felt pleasure, desired bliss and shunned anxieties. As for pleasure, I mean holy - divine pleasure - we will speak about it later on : hang it all ! a little bit particular !
As regards with anxiety, we get culpability : whether karma gathered in the long run of innumerable anterior lives for Hinduism or essential break, original sin for monotheisms.
And desired bliss, exile far from the lost paradise !
The mystic is a lover. Love is rapture. How could he be satisfied with solitude and leave out the Graal ? Let us read again The Song of Solomon, Hindu Tantras, Sufi poetry, the "Cantigas de Santa Maria" and so forth. After Sufis, The Woman symbolises The One without Second one, the Absolute, God. After Lacan she incarnates the freudo-heideggerian Thing. He includes soundly in that quest the beguine Hadjewijch of Anvers and "some gifted people such as Saint John of the Cross (...). As he does, one can put himself on the side of "not-all". Some men do as well as women do ! It happens ! And they feel good for it ! In spite of their phallus, which clutters themselves up, they have an inkling of, they feel the idea that there must be enjoyment which be beyond. It is that we call mystics". (...) "As for Saint Theresa from Avila - Just look at the statue of Bernin and you will understand at once, she enjoys, that is out of doubt. What do she enjoy ? It is obvious : the essential witnessing of mystics, is precisely, to mean that they feel it but that they do not know anything of it."
Would this enjoyment be "a matter of jism" ? ; Lacan denies it.
Tantras describe two energetic currents, namely sexual. First of them is linked to the "Linga" (phallus), the second to the "Yoni" (female organ). Those two currents are at work into the whole organism of each of the human beings, male or female. The stages of the spiritual way would lead, finally, to join altogether, the both energies, the both enjoyments. This of the top and that of the bottom, this of form and that undifferentiated one, this of signifying categories and that of fusional quest. The mystical writers and western theologians distinguishes neatly advancement toward the divine union, mystical wedding, which could be in the region of Enjoyment on the side of "Not-All" and in the other hand, unevennesses or ornaments of run that "aridnesses" and "consolations" blossom along. The latter phenomena would be clues of the human "corporeal constitution"; after those writers, angels could just be free of it.
The used means are varying. Yet we can regroup them as some types : psychophysiological exercises (postures, breathing, sounds, etc.), psychological approach (prayers, mental imagery, etc.)
A lot of researches, these twenty last years, has allowed to show that most of those practices lead to Altered States of Consciousness (A.S.C.) that I suggested to call Paradoxical Waking State... The huge literature after the adepts of every spiritual describes, with regard to introspection, several modalities of this fourth state of consciousness. Yet scientific research about this topic is at the beginning so that one mixes up all of these states and stages. It results in remarking the extreme proximity with that medical literature calls "relaxation", whether autogene training, whether Jacobson method or anything else.
This Paradoxical Waking State is a sound rest (even more than sleep) coupled with a perfect awakening. This paradoxical state when profound brings intense satisfactions, not only serenity, but more : bliss. For that we must have a steady routine to practice meditation twice or thrice a day, ranging from five minutes to more than one hour at each session ! Then somebody has pretended you could become addicted to this regular practice. Alas you couldn't !
Decrease of blood cholesterol in proportion of its outset, normalisation of thyroidal secretions as much as they were out of normal range, decrease of prolactin, corticosteroids, cathecholamins.
From the health care point of view, I maintain since several years the idea that spreading this state of consciousness is not harmful at all an even essential to fine harmony of our organism ! De facto, this approach leads, statistically speaking, to withdraw any kind of excessive behaviour, especially regarding to drug abuses... As Shabistari whispers to us "At once, escape from spacetime. Put the world aside and become a world within yourself". This is the grace I wish for us ! every morning and every night...
We need generally to be guided and that is a problem.
The success of the trip needs we be confident and like "addicted" not to the method but to the perfect master we will have found out... "Addictus" for Latin meant "body given for debt, slavery". And there are a lot of masters and teachers of relaxation, therapy, spirituality... The transferred experience is beneficial or even, sometimes, priceless ! What would you not give to perfect it ? How could you hold out against who gave you so much (?) and promise you more ? Ante-Freudian transference, in advance of so many centuries ! Ethics of its respectful employ ! The disciple might just as well assess the master he will decide to choose. Cautious before since after you will have to obey, to be devout. Like Jesus, he may ask you any goods, any action, up to abandon your father, your mother, your brothers (sisters) or even your wife (husband) . He may, perhaps he must, ask you the whole you are. The Absolute Being demands you, through the guru, everything : sex, power, money; trifles as regard to absolute, which deserves the sufist "FaNA", annihilation of the Ego...
One could just say "the Meditation, access to the essentials, access to the Main Thing". A particular, complex, difficult, arid path is not needed. You have just to move away day or night obstacles, moon or sun impediments.
The three way are one, even if their triplication stresses on stages.
It means to leave out of date distresses. Leave the overtaken sufferings, old fears, long-standing rancours. It means purification, i.e. catharsis ! Catharsis which can occur across psychoanalysis, psychodrama, rebirthing, etc. Likewise, through meditation and discharges arising into it. Catharsis : starts, calls, screams, excruciating yells which substantiate and absolve any primal pain, any illusory and devout love of which Freud wisdom warned us. Catharsis, it is to purify death-carrying stubborn defensive ratiocinations ! It is to soothe impassioned outbursts, it is to enlighten the hidden schemes of the flesh fighting against oneself.
Just sit down and meditate ? Yes ! Each day. Several times a day.
If necessary, using a technique, listening to a Master.
And Therapist ? Why not !? Not necessarily as monastic as those Philon talks about. Not necessarily as freed as Jean des Entomeures.
But may psychotherapist allow oneself to be a master ? a guru ? In my opinion, that mixture of styles is not of good omen. Especially if the patient may credit the therapist with aura of Realisation. This is a strong temptation for the therapist. Temptation of leaving think it, or worse : telling it, making the patient believe it. Mystification instead of mysticism; that kind of hoax, even unwilling, so genuine be supposed to be, can do the suffering client harm harshly.
However, as Charles Baudoin would tell, the therapist would delude himself if he did pretend take care of the patient without using suggestion at all. In such a way he would deprive himself of an sometimes useful lever. But also he would not be aware of a constant feature of his action, which always is at work, whether he wants it or not : by word, by act, by omission and... by thought !
Then it seems to me wise to aim at the happy medium such as Schultz describes it : "Our patients reach their self-accomplishment by deepening and widening their inner life, at higher level by self-determination, promoting and enriching their personality by convenient exercises (...). Then if an authentical world of religious experiences takes place in this self-realisation, the doctor, aware of his responsibilities becomes a guide full of consideration. He must feel obliged to a perfect discretion in this normal, so private, field.
Meditative Catharsis is soft, penetrating, sometimes instantaneous, abrupt, unexpected, however never brutal nor fanatic. Never too, even be too little. It can urge some radical change, genuine metanoïa ! Eventually, in the neighbourhood of paranoia. Woe on those who pretend or become tense, forget their self, mistake oneself for The Other One. They do not search anymore. They have find out the Fullness, the Truth. They are lost for a while. Until the bitterness of their certainties bring them back to the ground they should not have left so hastily.
Too well !
The Purgative Way so full of possibilities has to avoid abuses of enjoyment : fast not anorexia, discipline of the life not mean slavery, shepherding passions not colding the heart, quiet listening but not murderer silence, assured knowledge and not intransigent dogmatism, openness to the transcendence not naïve amazement !
We will use meditation without fear or simplism. We can't spare it ! It is essential to us therapists, to us patients, to us human beings ! It has shown its traps, its pitfalls and we will try to prevent them, to protect our patients of its misadventures and to spare everybody them. Not we do pretend to get farther, higher, better... We are just more critical, with the weapons of the positive criticism : this criticism which allows to read the texts, to love their substance without believing Methuselah had lived so many years or Vedas conceal every truths of quantum mechanics.
Diafoirus purge if it is question of a recipe ! Meet one's Desire under desires, one's longing for, the drive of drives do not suppose any peculiar prescription ! Talking of it as we attempt to do is likely vanity; but maybe there is a time to speak after the time to be silent.
Catharsis is not enough for the meditation. It offers its Light, explodes borders, postpones certainties, build peace. Dream enriches us with diversifications, with hypothesis, with pertinent noise of ancestral desires; it deals with yesterday and to day frustrations. At the reverse of dreams, meditation cleans useless aches, prunes in fruitless daydreaming anarchy, strengthen our thinking and acting. Its music collapses worthless walls, eliminates rubbishes, destroys inner enemies.
It allows us to see clearer and to feel the permanent subsistence of inmost being hidden under tinsel appearances. It whispers into several languages, after several Thoras, for many races and to each of us "You are That".
Aware being is. Aware it is the main thing. It is just enough to live, to sing, even into the furnace of anguish or the She'ol of depression.
Shooting sting of The Lack has made the bed for vacuity : space is neat, wide openness of heart, head, feet; thinking meets Being, action joins Act, Eros ends to find Agape !