The most obvious influence of esoteric spirituality on western psychology is in the use of meditation, relaxation techniques, and yoga. These techniques are even being used more and more in allopathic medicine.
Both medicine and psychology are gradually embracing the mind-body relationship, however belatedly, and finding that many of these mind-body techniques have a powerful psychological impact. These techniques are also very easy to learn and apply.
Esoteric spirituality has taught the importance of the mind-body connection for thousands of years. Because of this connection, the habit of allopathic medicine to separate psychological issues from physiological issues is breaking down. It is now well known, if not fully accepted, that psychology impacts physiology and vice-versa.
Many of the energy healing methods go back to ancient spiritual practices. The familiar laying on of hands is one of these ancient practices. The problem with the various energy healing methods is that they do not easily fall into either psychological techniques to deal with the troubled mind or simple physiological healing.
Esoteric spirituality has always understood the intimate relationship between mind and body. Therefore, any kind of symptom, whether perceived as psychological or physical, will be dealt with on both the physical as well as psychological level.
For example, if you have a heart attack or are at risk for a heart attack, you will receive whatever care is needed for your physical issues. You may have catheterization with possible angioplasty and stenting. Bypass surgery may be required. You will be given medication to reduce clots and thin the blood to prevent a first or subsequent cardiac event.
But you are also likely to take classes in which you will be shown the psychological factors that could have been causative in your physical issues. You will see the impact of stress, anxiety, personality type, and other lifestyle habits. Sociology will also be stressed in terms of possible psychological and emotional support from family, friends, church, and other support groups.
It isn’t just energy medicine that has invaded allopathic medicine in various forms. It is also the whole esoteric idea of looking at physical and psychological distresses as being caused holistically and therefore needing a holistic approach to deal with them.
Spirituality & Psychology
It could be argued that it was the original intention of psychology to deal with spiritual issues. After all, the word psychology means the study of the psyche or the soul. I would argue that psychology should be, at its best, the realm of dealing with spiritual issues. I would also argue that all issues, mental, emotional, and physical, are spiritual issues.
The realm of the mind and of the emotions is the realm of the spiritual. Esoteric spiritual traditions have studied and practiced within this realm for millennia. Psychology has benefited greatly from these traditions and can benefit even more if it is open.
One of the problems with modern psychology and especially psychiatry, is that it is getting away from the wisdom of the ancients and is depending more and more on pharmaceutical answers to psychological distress. Pills are handed out like candy and more and more mental disorders are being “discovered” that require more and more drugs.
Some esoteric spiritual traditions used drugs but they used them to open themselves to their inner wisdom and knowing. They also used drugs for physical healing but these were natural herbal remedies without the horrible side-effects of modern drugs.
I think the biggest contribution of esoteric spirituality on psychology and also on medicine, is the growing understanding of the importance of the mind-body connection. We now know that we do not have a mind and a body. We have a mind-body, intimately connected and each influencing the other continuously.
Any psychological intervention that does not take this fact into account will probably be less than successful.