A Tentative Curriculum For Psychotechnologies Of Self-transformation

Yesterday I recorded a conversation with Jonny Miller for his Curious Humans Podcast. (About which, more fairly soon.) Near the end of our conversation, Jonny asked me a question akin to this one: “If you build a school around certain psychotechnologies of self-transformation, what curriculum would you create?” I’m not satisfied with the answer I gave him then, though I think what I said vaguely points in the right direction. I’d like to take a second crack at it here.

I. What is Man?

The metaphysical question would begin with anthropos: “What is Man, or what are the basic capacities of a human being?” What follows is rather speculative:

  1. Spirit
  2. Physical Body
  3. Energetic Body
  4. Emotions
  5. Mind (Intellection)
  6. Psychological
  7. Relationships
  8. Actions of an interpersonal nature
  9. Actions of a more than interpersonal nature
  10. Wholeness

II. What is the Curriculum?

Even though I’m not yet convinced that this is the most accurate or complete understanding of anthropos, let’s move onto the question at hand: “Based on this understanding of anthropos, what kinds of psychotechnologies would be reasonable to recommend?”

  1. For the Spirit: silent meditation. If one is new to meditation, it would be good to avoid an app and start with Savikalpa samadhi, meaning absorption in an object (counting one’s breath, looking at a candle, repeating a mantra, etc.). This will still the mind and prepare it, sometime later, for Nirvikapla samadhi, which means absorption in the Self or Ultimate Reality.
  2. For the Physical Body: beautiful, energetic movement like yoga, martial arts, sacred dance, climbing, surfing, etc., provided that it is undertaken without ego.
  3. For the Energetic Body: breathwork (Holotropic or pranayama), certain Tantric exercises, or Vipassana meditation.
  4. For the Emotions: Tantric exercises whose intention is to go into the feelings, see them as sensations or energy, and dissolve them. (To dissolve is not to desire to get rid of them. Dissolving them is at one with curiously exploring them.)
  5. For the Mind (Intellection): a genuine study of cosmos (the nature of reality), deos (the divine, gods, God, etc.), and anthropos (the nature of Man) from from (a) an analytical point of view and (b) a historical point of view, the aim of both being (c) a synoptic vision of reality in its three-fold aspects. (The reference, here, is to Raimon Panikkar, The Cosmotheandric Experience).
  6. For the Psychological: modalities centered on healing. One good example is David Chapman’s series on shadows. Chapman admits that his series is rather vague and incomplete. Even so, his exploration of shadows is an illuminating starting point for feeling one’s way into this non-intellectual approach to what has been rejected from experience as not-me.
  7. For Relationships: authentic forms of relating (e.g., circling) in the We-space as is currently being explored by my friend Peter Limberg and his co-conspirator John Vervaeke.
  8. For Actions of a Personal Nature: case reasoning (casus perplexi) is a helpful aid to having a textured understanding of what is the right thing to do and of how to assess ethical conduct. Considering perplexing cases focused on the right thing to do cultivates our powers of deep ethical reflection. This is an Aristotelian approach.
  9. For Actions of a More than Interpersonal Nature: tuning into the wellspring of love for all sentient beings. I believe that the late Fred Rogers actually lived the commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” What would it mean to love, in some metaphysical sense, all of one’s neighbors–indeed, all sentient beings–as Oneself? Can we act–ecologically, politically–from a place of the profoundest love?
  10. For Wholeness: philosophical inquiry whose point is the embodiment of living wisdom. Philosophy seeks to bring anthropos, cosmos, and deos into a single whole and at the same time it seeks to enable one to live that understanding. Hence, living wisdom could be defined as living the highest conduct which flows directly from the highest understanding of Man, cosmos, and divinity.

A curriculum, properly understood, is a path. In this case, it’s the path of developing beings to the point at which they emanate understanding, love, beauty, and wisdom in all they are.