Connection between Psychoanalysis and Mysticism (the Split)

Luka Višnikar
6 min readJan 29, 2021


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Psychoanalysis arose as a response to the internal factors of human behavior, its changes and as a desire to understand the interactions between the conscious and the unconscious mind. The use of psychotherapy began with an intent to resolve a conflicts that may occur in an individual due to the repression of fears.

If we define psychotherapy as a means of treating mental distress and as a tool of psychology, such data can be found from the time when the first priests, shamans and various healers started to appear. While psychiatry falls into the category of scientific medicine, psychotherapy has always been associated with that, which is holy, for more than a thousand years.

Formal psychotherapy have its origin in eighteenth and nineteenth century, where the initiative was taken by the profession of rational medicine and thus became crucial to psychiatry. Psychiatry initially dealt only with insanity, but Freud’s psychoanalysis extended psychotherapy to neuroticism and to disorders that occur in human character.

Although modern psychotherapy is very different from ancient rites, which included magic, deities, dramatic rituals etc. - a western science is characterized by the split between the Holy and the rational, which makes it impossible to treat human psyche as a whole and also acceptance of the fact, that scientific confirmations are not yet possible, but that they are not even necessary, due to the multifaceted complexity of the psyche and human consciousness.

Freud’s view of the world certainly has a solid foundation inside a specific framework, but it is based on a 19th century physical and biological model, that is too narrow to capture the broader picture and factors emerging in the evolution of consciousness, which were later shown by Carl Jung and his approach, so was a connection to specific philosophies and his ideas of various archetypes that emerged and have manifested in our collective consciousness.

We stand in front of a wall that reminds us that we need to broaden our horizons and thus let science find a common ground with that, which is intangible in the existence of life and where there are possibilities for exploration.

The problem has become quite obvious, as there was a shift in perception and a split that happened with understanding of the philosophies from mysticism and especially from a practical elements in spirituality, due to an influence and postmodern fascination with ancient knowledge. With that split between science and religion, a crucial detail has been overlooked, which dictates that all thing are multidimensional, so that specific laws can be multi-layered. The problem also arises with understanding of the paradox, that joins two seemingly different types of work.

The core of mysticism and religion was always psychological, but it doesn’t require a focus only on a fixed point, but also contains other aspects that can be found even today, with new expansions of psychology. A good example of that would be Transpersonal psychology. It contains a transcendental component of individual, within the framework of modern psychology. It can also be defined as spiritual psychology. The transpersonal element include experiences in which the sense of identity or the self extends beyond the fixed personality and bonds together a broader view of human life, psyche, and the cosmos.

The roots of mysticism in psychoanalysis are obvious and should not be placed outside the circle of debate and labeled entirely as superstition. It is also obvious that the psyche transcends the boundaries of clinical psychology and that we need to put into a consideration other dimensions, even though they are not yet accepted as a confirmed truth. In fact, a number of people who have identical experiences emerging everyday and are “target” of internal unconscious processes that can be set as a model on a collective level and are therefore impossible to deny.

Transpersonal psychology, unlike clinical, does recognize the existence of a spirit, intuition and altered states of consciousness. It’s a new field of psychology that has a holistic approach, acknowledging a fact, that man is a collection of mind, body and spirit, which conventional psychology does not take into account as a whole. Due to the framework in which conventional psychology is holding onto, is simply not possible to break through to the prime source and thus make superficial diagnoses, so that a particular subject can be crammed into a framework, that has foundation on a not yet fully explored territory. This is especially true for individuals who have specific spiritual predispositions and many of them may end up as victim of misdiagnosis and under the influence of pharmaceutical drugs, which only suppress the individual’s condition and consequently stigmatize him.

The mystical tradition, like psychoanalysis, deals with a human psyche by assuming that a man is unconscious of his primal nature, so it can lead him to a conflict with the outside world and conflict with himself.

The sages had an outlook of the world with the development of consciousness that leads to a higher level of perception. Mysticism does not offer therapy in the classical sense of the word, but shows how to reach a “true self” and how to consciously integrate and resolve internal conflicts. It is often compared to religions of modern times, but operates with its own elements.

Religion directs attention to divinity, while mysticism seeks salvation in recognizing the inner self.

After all, the culture in which we live, has overlooked the difference between the former and the latter, especially in the literature of psychology.

The existence of consciousness, as well as the existence of inner worlds (psyche), cannot be scientifically proven, because of the aspect in human nature that is intangible - invisible. However, the meaning that can be developed, is in new research of quantum physics and metaphysics, which connects the basic models of psychology with much more widespread findings that connects knowledge of eastern civilizations, mysticism, shamanism and even occultism.

Consciousness does not stagnate, but has an evolution. It is formed through its own creation. It purposefully creates circumstances in our lives and thus reminds us who we really are and what potential we hide within ourselves. Our unconscious processes reflect what is happening in the outside world, which forces us to learn about ourselves and the world we live in.

It is very likely that meaning and purpose of human life is beyond ordinary perception, which expands and deepens inside the framework of mysticism. Some say that the evolution of consciousness is the main task of humanity.

So, can a psychology, with attempt to explain the meaninglessness of human existence and the accompanying symptoms that goes along with it, learn from mysticism, which can discern a meaning of existence as something real and accessible to a consciousness and can provide a development as well as a suitable ability to perceive the world inside and outside ourselves?

If we can’t answer to a question: “Who am I” and “What am I,” which is a key element to all science, philosophy, art and in search for meaning in general, we must step outside traditional ways of thinking.

The mystical tradition focuses on an area that western science has overlooked. For example, a yogic as well as Buddhist metaphysics and psychology emphasize the essential difference between the observer and the content of the consciousness and use meditation techniques to increase the observation of the self, so that a mystic could approach closer to an answer, which he asked: “Who am I?” and “Why am I?” - so for this, one must possess a special potential for expanded awareness.

To understand what “I” is, we should first listen to what a mysticism can teach us about it.