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Passing the past

Diane Gimber was kind to give me a copy of a book she has found useful entitled, Spiritual Bypassing:
When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters. The title and even what follows the colon
may not quite explain what Robert Masters, the author, has in mind.

Masters provides the following to help appreciate what is meant by spiritual bypassing. “When
transcendence of our personal history takes precedence over intimacy with our personal history,
spiritual bypassing is inevitable. To not be intimate with our past—to not be deeply and thoroughly
acquainted with our conditioning and its originating factors—keeps it undigested and unintegrated
and therefore very much present, regardless of our apparent capacity to rise above it. 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.”

I thank Diane not only for this gift of a book but for her timing in giving it to me. Over the past
month I have had many challenges from students about the usefulness of looking at our “personal
histories” and its relevance to spiritual growth. Masters may overstate the challenge of spiritual
bypassing, but his point is well taken. The past, our own histories, our family histories and the
larger histories of community and humanity play a vital role in the awakening or obfuscation of our
spiritual selves—for through them we gain awareness of the challenges to overcome.

Kabbalah emphasizes that we need to look at the details of the seen reality to uncover the parallels
found in the unseen reality. Therefore, in seeking spirit, we start first from the level of manifestation.
Having gained insights from those objects that are “closer then they appear” we can look again in
the mirror and see forward—transcending the past without bypassing it.

Comments 1

  1. Given our predilection for transcending the “human condition,” we attempt the spiritual bypass all the time, naturally. But Torah blesses us with knowing our true task is surrendering ourselves to the possibility of transformation, not transcendence. Theologically, transcending ourselves would not be possible, for where would we “go” and who would we humans become? Even mystical or unifying experiences are just that, “experiences,” limited in time, voided once we catch ourselves having them, and leaving us properly humbled, awed, and re-committed to seeking holiness with our very “human” selves.
    I say transformation is only a “possibility” because divine grace, somewhat Jewishly called “chen,” requires a collaboration of the person and the Creator/Infuser of Life, not an effort of will (ego?) I can produce by myself. that would be spiritual commodification or spiritual materialism. The analogy between transcendence and transformation is akin to that of cure and heal. G-d might cure me and you of this or that, or G-d might heal me; I’d bet on healing every time.
    Thanks for hearing me.

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