The Perennial Psychology
A Timeless Approach to Understanding Human Nature
The "Who," "What," "Why," and "How"
Here it is, in a nutshell.
“The Who”: Who It’s For
The Perennial Psychology is for spiritual seekers – both the “Spiritual But Not Religious” and those within religious traditions – and any intelligent reader interested in a deeper understanding of psychology and human nature.
Many individuals aren’t satisfied with solutions offered by the current usual mainstream psychology and superficial pop self-help perspectives. The Perennial Psychology offers an alternative approach.
“The What”: The Basic Message
The Perennial Psychology is an approach to understanding human nature that draws from centuries of spiritual and philosophical thought.
Modern mainstream psychology is often “secretly” atheistic. In an effort to be scientific, it covertly adopts a materialistic worldview, presuming many philosophical positions implicitly without stating them explicitly. This worldview axiomatically assumes that there is no spiritual reality – or, if some sort of spiritual reality actually does exist, it’s hardly relevant to psychological health and the struggles of everyday life.
These assumptions can severely limit our ability to understand human nature. Many on the “front lines” of psychology – who counsel real humans struggling with real problems – experience this firsthand.
The Perennial Psychology takes the opposite approach. It claims that genuine spirituality (as embodied in The Perennial Philosophy, for example) actually plays a critical role at the very center and core of psychological health and inner strength.
The territories of human nature covered by major spiritual traditions (Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Taoism and others) and great thinkers across thousands of years agree on a great deal. Specialists often focus narrowly on minor areas of dispute. The Perennial Psychology takes a different approach here as well, examining the broad areas of overlap where these traditions and thinkers agree.
“The Why”: What can this do for me?
Life is hard. Navigating life with a flawed or incomplete map of human nature can make it much harder. The Perennial Psychology offers the reader a time-tested, reliable model of human nature. This can help wayfarers navigate the treacherous terrain of life safely.
Many individuals today suffer from anxiety, depression, dysfunctional relationships, emotional conflict, angst, meaninglessness, and so on. Though it doesn’t explore specific conditions in depth, The Perennial Psychology acts as a general “owner’s manual” that can arm individuals with a proper understanding of the complexities of human psychology.
The approach is “see for yourself” and is fully compatible with reason, science, and empirical investigation, and avoids a “blind faith” directive. It argues that there exists a spiritual component of human nature. This component is very real and exerts a tangible force in our inner lives. By understanding and aligning ourselves with this “component” we can discover a newfound source of inner harmony, happiness, and self-control. Once we learn some of the fundamentals of this immensely complex system, we can discover some relief from many various forms of inner suffering.
“The How”: How do I apply this?
The Perennial Psychology aims to sketch out a rough but overall map of the whole of human nature. Many perspectives offer in-depth, specialized explorations of specific conditions or problems. A book might explore anxiety or depression, for example, but doesn’t explore the individual person who is anxious or depressed.
The Perennial Psychology, on the other hand, focuses on the greater context of a person as a whole. In some cases, relief from specific problems can come not by way of a direct, linear assault, but through an improved understanding of “The Bigger Picture.”
That said, some tangible insights and practical advice point the seeker toward greater mental clarity, emotional strength, and a spirituality grounded in the direct experience of truth.
PART 1) HOW CAN WE UNDERSTAND OURSELVES?
Our Starting Point: A few simple questions
The basic aim: “Know Thyself”
How do we study the “mind”?
How can we “know ourselves”?
The scientific study of human nature
Science aimed to be neutral
It didn’t work as planned
The successes of science
The effort to study ourselves scientifically
How we seek affects what we find
Shouldn’t psychology aim to be atheistic?
What worldview should we adopt?
Spiritual traditions make claims about human nature
Science, psychology, and spiritual traditions
Is spirituality Premodern, or beyond Postmodern?
What do they agree on?
So, how can we understand ourselves?
PART 2) WHAT MAKES US TICK?
I) A few basic observations
II) A brief tour of proposed answers
III) Anatomy of the human condition
A state of “tension”
We long for “release”
Mechanics of transcendence
IV) So, what do we want, ultimately?
A resolution to the human condition
The polarity beyond polarities
The desire beyond desires
The drama beyond dramas
The ultimate motivation
PART 3) THE ORIGINS OF HUMAN NATURE
I) Why Maslow’s Hierarchy Isn’t Enough
II) A brief overview of traditional approaches
III) Areas of agreement across these approaches
IV) Existentially: A Core Disorientation
V) Emotionally: A Core Dissatisfaction
VI) Intellectually: A Core Ignorance
V) The Vacuum at the Center
PART 4) WHAT WE’RE MADE OF: OUR INNER ARCHITECTURE
I) A brief overview of approaches
Common Denominators: Our Inner Components
II) The Architecture of Feeling: How Do Emotions Work?
The Challenge: Understanding Emotions Intellectually
A Non-Reductionist Approach to Emotion
III) The Higher Component of Human Nature
An Overview of Approaches
Rough Maps of New Lands
Common Denominators: What Lies in the Depths
IV) Complicating Factors: Memory, Defenses, and Desire
Memory and the Emotional Echo Chamber
The Desire to Understand Desire
V) How human nature reflects a larger picture
VI) A Brief Summary
PART 5) OUR GREAT TASK IN LIFE
I) Building a self
On “Instincts,” or lack thereof
The furniture kit and the unfinished self
Emotional illiteracy and the symphony conductor
The challenge of becoming a self
Inner conflict, and “head verses heart”
How we’re both wholes, and parts
The crisis of meaninglessness
II) Beyond the self
The Climax of Life
Ego as “friend”
Ego as “enemy”
Ego as “friend and enemy”
“To be, and not to be…”
PART 6) THE BATTLEFIELD OF THE HEART
I) The Higher Potential: to use, or lose it
II) The Inner Conflict Zone
The Core Dilemma
The Primal Repression
“Something in us knows.”
The masks we hide behind
Solutions to compensations
III) The Classical Model of Inner Health
IV) From Inner Weakness to Inner Strength
How things go wrong
How things go right
V) From Inner Confusion to Inner Clarity
The Principle Confusion
The origin of illusions
The case of existential mistaken identity
VI) From Dis-integration to Integration of Self
The neutrality of the passions
VII) From Fragmentation to Unity
To not become a self, by Kierkegaard
Beyond pleasure and pain
Unification and fragmentation of self
The Way Up or The Way Down
The Way Up and The Way Down
VIII) The Kingdom of the Self
The task of the Prince
“The happy kingdom”
“The unhappy kingdoms”
IX) Beyond Instincts
The problem of angst
A higher level of joy
Fulfillment verses self-satisfaction
Our native hue
Mapping out inner flight paths
PART 7) The Inner Quest
I) A (not-so-brief) summary
II) The Guiding Directive
III) Applying “The Guiding Directive”
IV) A note to skeptics and apatheists
V) Cleansing the Doors of Perception
VI) Practical Recommendations
VII) A return to where we started
VIII) The Inner Treasure Hunt