Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters Paperback – Jul 27 2010
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"This is a wonderfully significant and important book, and is highly recommended. Its contents are truly mandatory for this day and age."
—Ken Wilber, author of The Integral Vision
"This timely and penetrating analysis of spirituality’s shadow provides a much-needed counterpoint for those who tend to get blinded by its light."
—Stephen Batchelor, author of Buddhism without Beliefs
"There is much wisdom and good information in this book. Robert joins a growing number of wise teachers who understand that the personal and the universal must be combined to bring true and genuine spiritual awakening."
—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path With Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
"Traversing the muddy waters of contemporary spirituality requires a willingness to meet its seen and unseen challenges with ruthless self-honesty and keen discernment. Robert addresses 'the many faces of spiritual bypassing' with intellectual rigor, hard-earned insight, and emotional intelligence. It is a lucid, well-written, and practical guide for both new and seasoned practitioners on the spiritual path."
—Mariana Caplan, PhD, author of Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path and Halfway Up the Mountain: the Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment
"Robert Masters has given us a great gift—a tremendously useful guide to examining our tendencies to spiritual bypassing, clearly the most comprehensive and accessible treatment available on this crucial topic. His work is a great contribution to the ongoing integration of psychotherapy and spiritual practice, and to our understanding of the meaning of spiritual maturity."
—Donald Rothberg, PhD, author of The Engaged Spiritual Life
"In Spiritual Bypassing, Robert Masters eloquently reminds us of something we have unknowingly misplaced on our spiritual journeys: Mother Earth. In our efforts to bypass our earthly challenges, we have disconnected from the Ground of our very being, seeking our wholeness on a pogo stick to the stars. In poignant and clarifying language, Robert calls us back home, confronting us with our avoidance, inviting us to find our spirituality in the heart/depths of our humanness. In an era where detachment models for spirituality are becoming dangerously prevalent, his inclusive message is of profound importance. It may not appeal to the part of us that wants the path to be easy, but it will speak loudly to the part of us that longs for the truth. I recommend it wholeheartedly."
—Jeff Brown, author of Soulshaping
"In Spiritual Bypassing, Robert Augustus Masters offers a wake-up call—more of a shout—to those of us who have unwittingly fallen prey to all manner of promising and seductive antidotes to our pain and suffering in the form of detached spiritual teachings and New Age magical thinking. The book is a sobering and powerful reminder that our present embodiment, in all its flawed, messy humanness, cannot be conveniently sidestepped, and so invites us inward to a face-to-face encounter and embrace with the raw truth of who we really are. Masters’ unique and at times disarming prose style blends a poetic sensibility with a surprising stark clarity that points us to 'What Really Matters.'"
—Eliezer Sobel, author of The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist’s Misadventures with Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics, and Other Consciousness-Raising Experiments
"There is much hard-won wisdom in this work. Spiritual Bypassing is a detailed, point-by-point description of how so-called spirituality can be used by some to actually avoid individuation, adulthood, and the daimonic. When Carl Jung noted that “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering,” he hinted that, especially for the Western psyche, spiritual practice itself can be just such a sneaky neurosis. This insightful, firm, confrontive yet compassionate book promotes and encourages the complementary marriage of spiritual practice and psychotherapy, recognizing that they are—and, at best, have always been—basically two integrally related sides of the same existential coin: The most profound psychotherapy is essentially spiritual; and the deepest spiritual quest includes some depth psychology. Neither approach can be excluded on the unpredictable path toward selfhood. But even the powerful fusion of spirituality and psychotherapy cannot offer transcendent perfection. Selfhood or spiritual enlightenment is never about escaping or distorting inner or outer reality to serve our egos, but requires lovingly accepting and embracing reality as it is and on its own terms."
—Stephen Diamond, PhD, author of Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity
"Uncompromising and truth-telling, this book is an antidote to spiritual obesity. What emerges is the call to psychological clarity as essential to the mature spiritual life. Here is soul-fuel for those who would enter the road less traveled—the deeply examined life as part of spiritual practice."
—Jean Houston, PhD, author of A Mythic Life
"The escape act and forms of denial and self-delusion that Robert Masters diagnoses as 'spiritual bypassing' have been with us for millennia — perhaps since our early ancestors first discovered psycho-spiritual experiences that seemed to relieve the pressures of living and dying. But the syndrome has become endemic in our frothy age of virtual everything — so we are all blessed by the appearance of this diamond of a book. Here a priest of our true wellness has distilled the blood, sweat, and tears of his decades of fervent triage work in trenches of bypassing into essences of truly healing wisdom. Every spiritual practitioner would do well to study Spiritual Bypassing again and again. So would every one of us who presume to teach any spirituality at all. Thankfully, it's as much compassionate antidote as prophetic critique. May it be put to grateful use as long as the illness it treats continues to ravage human bodies, souls, and lives."
—Saniel Bonder, founder, Waking Down in Mutuality, and author of Healing the Spirit/Matter Split and Waking Down
“Spiritual Bypassing casts a critical eye on our deeply entrenched misuse of spirituality… Masters provides a framework for how to deal with and integrate ‘negative’ emotions such as anger, fear, hate and judgment into a more authentic way of living. While most self-help books these days seem to simply tell you to ‘just be more positive,’ ‘avoid negativity’ or ‘have more compassion,’ Masters suggests a method where we can simultaneously choose to be compassionate while also still choosing to acknowledge our heartfelt anger—without expressing it with excessive aggression or repressing it through denial or other practices that might numb our real feelings... Spiritual Bypassing is a must read for anyone who is looking for a more integrated spirituality, authentic relationship with themselves and others, and practical methods for dealing with unresolved wounds.”
—Spiritual Media Blog
“In my opinion, [Spiritual Bypassing] will become as important as Chogyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism… Masters seems to be, based on his writings, one of the most important minds working in integral psychotherapy.”
—Integral Options Café
“Spiritual Bypassing is an exceptionally well-written book that is endorsed by big-time authors such as, Jack Kornfield, Jean Houston, and Ken Wilber. Let's support (and challenge) ourselves and others who can no longer see for themselves when they are blinded by the light.”
—New Consciousness Review
About the Author
Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, is a relationship expert, an integral psychotherapist, and a psychospiritual guide and trainer, with a doctorate in psychology. He is the cofounder, with his wife Diane, of the Masters Center for Transformation (MCT), a school featuring relationally rooted psychospiritual work devoted to deep healing and fully embodied awakening. He is also the author of many books (including Transformation Through Intimacy, Spiritual Bypassing, Emotional Intimacy, and To Be a Man) and an audio program: Knowing Your Shadow.
His uniquely integral, intuitive work, which he developed over the past thirty-seven years, dynamically blends the psychological and physical with the spiritual, emphasizing full-blooded embodiment, authenticity, emotional openness and literacy, deep shadow work, and the development of relational maturity.
At essence his work is about becoming more intimate with all that we are, in the service of the deepest possible healing, awakening, and integration. He works side by side and in very close conjunction with Diane. They live and work in Ashland, Oregon. His website is http://robertmasters.com.
He posts regularly on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/robertaugustusmasters
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I have been reading and enjoying Robert Augustus Masters' newest book, "Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters." I'm reading a Kindle version on my iTouch and my Kindle, so I find myself highlighting whole pages that I want to share.
I can't post the whole book here. Yet I cannot recommend this book strongly enough - if you want to be fully integrated as a human being, get the most from your spiritual practice, and/or go deeper in your psychotherapy, you MUST get this book and read it, slowly and let it sink in.
Of all the people who talk about an integral spirituality and psychology, Masters is the only one I really see walking the talk. His books are not filled with abstract theory, they are practical guides to becoming more authentic, more integrated, and more whole.
Masters gives us an overview of the many varied ways we engage in spiritual bypassing in the first 7 chapters. When we get to chapter 8, "What Generates Spiritual Bypassing?", the answer he gives is perfectly obvious - pain - and yet all the ways we seek to escape the pain generally just make it worse. We seldom look into our pain and seek to heal it - we often try to bypass it and spirituality is often a great way - in our minds - to do it.
In my opinion, this book will become as important as Chogyam Trungpa's "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism," which they publisher mentions as well (see above).
This book is so clear and so true that one wonders how no one else has ever written this. Here are a few short quotes:
"Instead of trying to get beyond our personal history, we need to learn to relate to it with as much clarity and compassion as possible, so that it serves rather than obstructs our healing and awakening. This also means relating in similar fashion to our tendency to spiritually bypass, casting a lucid, caring eye upon the part of us who buys into us." (Location 225)
* * *
"When we remain outside or removed from our fear, we are trapped by it, but when we actually do get inside, cultivating intimacy with it, we are no longer trapped by it, discovering--and not just intellectually--that it is but darkly contracted energy, a knotted-up vitality that can be freed when we become intimate with it." (Location 337)
* * *
"Real shadow work does not leave us intact; it is not some neat and tidy process but rather an inherently messy one, as vital and unpredictably alive as birth. The ass it kicks is the one upon which you are sitting; the pain it brings up is the pain we've been fleeing most of our life; the psychoemotional breakdowns it catalyzes are the precursors to hugely relevant breakthroughs; the doors it opens are doors that have shown up year after year in our dreams, awaiting our entry. Real shadow work not only breaks us down but also breaks us open, turning frozen yesterday into fluid now." (Location 635)
* * *
Those are from the first few chapters - there are wise quotes like these on nearly every page. I could offer lots of other quotes, especially from the chapters on shadow work (hint: 1-2-3 shadow work ain't real shadow work), blind compassion, false transcendence, magical thinking, sex, shame, and so much more.
One of the more important sections in the book is the chapter on "magical thinking." So much of what passes for "spirituality" is simply magical thinking (and spiritual materialism) all dressed up in new language. The so-called "law of attraction" is a prime example that Masters takes on, revealing the childish thinking behind the pseudo-spirituality.
Most importantly, he is not condescending - we all engage in spiritual bypass from time to time. The trick is learning to recognize and limit it's ability to keep us isolated from ourselves. In the end, that's exactly what happens. If we do not get to know our pain and our wounding, our fears and our hatreds, then we are never fully ourselves, we are two-dimensional beings casting a large shadow.
I've seen this in myself and in many others who were spiritual teachers. Perhaps what this reveals, more than anything else, is that in our rush to awakening, in our "McDonaldized" fast-food mentality of "wake up now," we sometimes push issues under the rug or just completely bypass them. We end up giving ourselves the short end of the stick when it comes to freedom and fullness. And for those of us that are teaching, writing books, or otherwise sharing a spiritual message, we tend to pass that tendency to bypass onto others. Our bypassing becomes like a virus in the system, infecting one human heart and mind after the other.
I had to say all that to explain exactly why I think "Spiritual Bypassing" by Masters is so important! Just reading this book can open up one's eyes and bring attention to issues that are so easily overlooked.
I found myself silently nodding my head "yes" as I was reading. I have seen several of the things he brought up in myself. And I've seen the other issues in fellow friends, students, and teachers. So this is really a book for all of us, no matter where we think we are, on a path or beyond a path. Once we close down to looking at these issues, we may remain closed forever. So Masters book is just sitting out there, like an invitation to look again, to double check for ways in which we use spiritual language and methods (as well as direct non-method, nondual approaches) to bypass in areas like relationship, responsibility, "manifesting things in one's life," "healthy v. unhealthy transcendence," boundaries v. no boundaries. He deals with very difficult issues, striking a balance between total freedom where everything is perfect as it is and everyday discrimination where we know how to say "no" or remove ourselves from toxic situations or strike a balance between containment of anger v. expression of anger. This book is like one big invitation NOT to repress various aspects of our experience.
Masters chapter on Spiritual Gullibility and Cultism is great stuff. Wow, much needed! I'm glad someone is talking about this. I've seen it in virtually every kind of spirituality--from the dual to the nondual. This book is intelligent spirituality! It asks you to question what you are doing and thinking, and why you belong to a certain group or attracted to a certain practice--ultimately inviting you to let liberation be a fire that burns up unhealthy tendencies of bypassing within that group or practice.
This book is really more valuable than 10 books within your favorite tradition or from your favorite spiritual teaching because it can illuminate things for you that your tradition or teaching cannot see. So why not take a break from whatever you are doing, with whatever teacher, or in whatever path, and just check out this book. It's well worth it!
Masters reminds us to bring every aspect of our experience online--from the head to the heart to the body and to nondual awareness. It's a beautiful invitation to everyone, student and teacher alike. I not only highly recommended this book, but I think it's a "must read" for anyone who finds themselves being a spiritual teacher or author.
He asserts that our spiritual practices are just as valid as our psycho-therapeutic understandings, and to not just blindly believe either, don't just meditate your life away, pray for forgiveness, or spend years talking about it to a therapist, get up and do something about it. He highlights that we have to make an effort and healthy connection to all aspects of being a whole human, which is to nourish mind, body and spirit.
A fabulous, clear, and intelligent read for any one that desires to be a whole, loving and evolved citizen on planet Earth today. Loved it!
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