Spirituality

Two frequent and perhaps related criticisms of the Reich and Lowen tradition are one, that it is anti-intellectual and two, it is anti- or un-spiritual. I will attempt a broad and functional definition of spirituality.

Humans are endowed with a self that is different from the ego, and this self, in its dynamics may transcend mere survival or animal characteristics of the person. When the existence of this self is considered to have independence from the biological life of the human, it is sometimes thought of as a soul.

In the Reich and Lowen tradition, to discuss the self, the three layer model is pertinent. The self is at the core. The muscular layer is in the middle. It is a over-simplication, but a useful one, to consider the muscular layer the body that Lowen and I am always talking about! The ego and awareness is in the surface layer. For the self-determining part of the person, the ego, to be spiritual, it has to go through the muscular layer, or the 'body' to reach the self. To try to skip the body and go straight to spiritual matters is actually to fall for a false self that is still in the surface layer and has been created by the ego. That is often attempted and it is a false spirituality. Lowen wrote his book Spirituality and the Body to address this.

The creator and communicator characters can rightly be said to be more spiritual in a way. Because of the decreased contact with the self, they are vigilant and interested in all topics that highlight the self's existence and validity apart from from biological functioning. But this is more a interest in spirituality than it is an achievement of spirituality.

The Reich and Lowen tradition agrees with say Buddhist, Yogic, or Taoist traditions in that good health, physical and emotional, is fundamental to a joyful spirituality*. However, these 'eastern' traditions tend to offer a growth tradition that goes all the way from 'lost' to 'enlightened' without any clear stopping point at 'okay'. Wilhelm Reich, while not exactly fitting with these traditions, did, it must be admitted, get rather 'cosmological.'

In Lowenian work however, a strong contrast is seen. The objective is 'health' which is a 'midway' platform onto which a life of meaning and spirituality can be built, but this latter part is up to the individual--it exceeds the scope of Lowenian work. There is a purported Zen quip: "Enlightenment, then laundry."

What Lowen emphasized was that a spiritual existence cannot arise from a depleted body. First things first. Irmgard Bartenieff, a bodyworker from a different tradition, and no real fan of Lowen concurred. She spoke of a 'defensive' spirituality that people "jump to mentally" rather than expand out toward. Defensive spirituality can be an ideology of specialness that people resort to when the life of the body has not been satisfying. Defensive spirituality is the illusion that the life of the body can be made optional.

*Not apparently so for the majority tradition of Christianity which tends toward the belief that the body and the passions are a threat to spirituality, and that ill-health is at worst neutral and at best conducive to spirituality. Abusing the body is even encouraged. Needless to say this is not really compatible at all with the Reich and Lowen tradition. In the 'Eastern' traditions as well, there are ascetic strains that insist that energy must be kept from 'lower' pursuits and saved for higher pursuits. Freud's libido sublimation theory comes to mind here--with him of course higher pursuits were not spiritual but civilizing.