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Systemic Psychology & Spirituality
Spiritual Experience not Dogma Martyn Carruthers 2004

Online Life Coaching, Counseling & Systemic Therapy

We offer coaching and counseling on spiritual experiences
that we more often call Lasting Happiness, Integrity ... or Soul.

Science, Happiness & Spiritual Development

People in our scientific society seem to read more about spiritual life, spiritual growth and spiritual development than about science. Yet, although most people consider spiritual development to be important, our definitions and descriptions of spirituality, spiritual practices and spiritual relationships are often wildly different.

Your sense of spirituality affects how you live your life and how you express love. Perhaps your relationships best reveal your spiritual development. I perceive happiness, fulfillment, integrity and connectedness to be relationship qualities - not individual skills.

Most spiritual paths requires spiritual mentors and teachers. As spiritual mentors can only assist people who know less than they do - some guidelines about how to recognize spirituality; and who is spiritually advanced or spiritually developed or even spiritually healthy. Let's start with spirituality.

Spiritual Coaching for Soul Mates . Is our work "New Age"?

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality appears to be an integral part of all human cultures. Spiritual development may be regarded as connecting to something external to the self, or as an internal experience, or both. At its most basic it can be called luck. Lone survivors of disasters may be called holy or chosen.

Spirituality is often defined as reverence for sacred objects, learning holy chants and special songs, repeating submissive body movements and reciting dogma. If so, spirituality might then be measured in terms of ability to repeat chants, copy body movements or remember dogma.

Spirituality may be perceived as success without effort, in which unseen forces are assumed to support certain individuals. Some people measure spirituality by unearned material success.

Spirituality includes unusual varieties of human experience, including an ability to communicate with what are often called gods, spirits, ancestors, or non-physical realities. Spiritual evolution can then be assessed as ability to channel information.

Spirituality includes connecting to spiritual agencies through their symbolic manifestations - interacting with perceived spiritual agencies with fear, respect, gratitude or reverence. Spirituality may be assessed as ability to bribe spiritual agencies, evidenced by good luck for a person, family or community.

Spiritual Experience

Spirituality includes obsessions with sacred images, chants, mythic language, incense and rituals. Such religious experiences can prove a dogma and help form community bonds. Through our systemic work we offers experiences of connectedness that many people say will survive death of a human body.

The validity of spiritual experience is easily questioned. Experiences of relationships with esoteric agencies may indicate saints in one culture - and schizophrenics in another. Experiences following the ingestion of psychotropic substances may indicate the presence of spirituality in one culture - and the absence of spirituality in another.

The qualities of spiritual experience vary. Many practices taken for granted in the  West were once "spiritual experiences" including: imagining, writing, spelling, mental arithmetic and guesstimating.

Dr William James, in his lectures: Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), described four qualities of mystical experiences. Dr. James said: "These four characteristics are sufficient to mark out a group of states of consciousness peculiar enough to ... be called the mystical group."

  • Passive: not willfully created
  • Transient: short-term - not all-of-life
  • Noetic: deep insights into non-intellectual truth or reality
  • Ineffable: cannot be described or appropriately verbalized

"I took your communication course (Integrity Bridges) and was shocked to find
that everyday communications can become almost spiritual events.
I see people differently and I respond in ways that I like very much.
For a computer geek like me, this is a different world."

Hierarchy of Spiritual Experience

The similarities and differences in spiritual experience across human cultures follow a predictable hierarchy. Spiritual evolution and development has many dimensions. Some important dimensions are Environment, Things, Actions, Beliefs, Values, Identity and Transcendence. These form a hierarchy of abstraction (suggested by Dr Gregory Bateson in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 1976):

Environment Some locations are considered especially sacred or spiritual - often locations with unusual geographic features - or a place where one or more persons have died or been buried - or a place where a spiritual event was recorded.


Some items and objects are considered especially spiritual - often objects of unusual scarcity. Spiritual objects also include possessions or even parts of people who were recognized as "spiritually advanced".


Some body movements or repetitive behaviors are considered sacred. This includes movements, chants, repeated words or thoughts that symbolize or request a "preferred" relationship with an esoteric or spiritual agency.


Some beliefs are considered especially spiritual. Spiritual beliefs often lack factual basis, and concern dead people or locations considered spiritual.


Some values are considered especially spiritual. Spiritual values often lack practicality and can rarely be measured or assessed in ordinary reality.
(See the next table.)


People recognized as spiritual often communicate in abstract metaphors and die in interesting ways. Their lives typically include periods of suffering during which they found ways to limit suffering, often by identification or dissociation.


Transcendence of identity is a goal of many spiritual paths, although there can be bitter disputes about whether or not a person has, in fact, transcended.

Hierarchy of Values

I often classify values using an evolutionary hierarchy suggested by Dr Clare Graves (see Spiral Dynamics, 1996, Wiley, ISBN-10 1557869405). The following table loosely uses Dr Graves work to show a hierarchy of spiritual development.

  Sacred Things Sacred Actions Sacred Beliefs
Lucky me Lucky tools; hunting weapons; clothes Find lucky places; using magical thoughts Spirituality is luck
Tribal Sacred charms; foods; protective symbols Chants; movements; rituals; songs Spirituality is obedience to shamans and chiefs
Warrior Sacred tools of battle and warfare Duels; Sacrifice; Respect; Conquest Spirituality is having magical power
Dogma Sacred papers: books; certificates; awards Marches; respect dogma; initiations; authorities Spirituality is obedience to dogma; rewarded after death
Success Status symbols; luxury toys; "trophy" partner Competing and winning; donations Spirituality is recognition for individual success
Community Communal ownership Sharing information and human resources Spirituality is sharing experience of community
Systemic Communication and information tools Integrating self; effective systemic diversity Spirituality is systemic human behavior
Global Everything and nothing is sacred Living for humanity and/or nature Spirituality is connecting with the universe

Spiritual Ecology, Sense of Life & Soulwork

We model the behaviors of happy people whose lives make sense. We can help you experience yourself as a spiritual being - you are not alone and at the core of your being you can experience what we often call integrity or Soul.

Spirituality for Couples . Spirituality for Families . Is Soulwork "New Age"?

Happiness, fulfillment and enlightenment are both individual experiences and relationship qualities. We help people clarify their spiritual goals and
experience an ongoing sense of connectedness.

Contact us for help solving emotional and relationship problems.

Online Life Coaching, Relationship Counseling & Systemic Therapy

I thought you were just another therapist - but you were not just. Not even. Not only.

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 2004-2018
All rights reserved

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Soulwork systemic coaching in America & Hawaii


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Have You Suffered Enough?

 Where are you now? Understand your emotions, fixations and enmeshments
What do you hope for? Know your goals and stop sabotaging yourself
Do you feel resourceful? Learn to develop your inner resources
Do emotions block you? Relationship problems and mentor damage
Do your beliefs limit you? Change limiting beliefs and end dependence
Do you feel connected? Resolve identity issues to recover lost resources
Is your partner happy? Build healthy partnership (or separate peacefully)
Are your children healthy? Happy parents better manage family problems
Do you want team success? Team leaders and their teams develop together
Do you have complex goals? Specialty coaching, counseling & therapy

Plagiarism is theft. Copyright Martyn Carruthers 1996-2018  All rights reserved. Soulwork Systemic Coaching was primarily developed by Martyn Carruthers to help people solve emotional problems and relationship conflicts to achieve their goals. These concepts and strategies are for general knowledge only. Consult a physician about medical conditions and before changing medical treatment. Don't steal intellectual property ... get permission to post, publish or teach Martyn's work - email