Sep 24, 2000


It is a book for those who are seeking self-realization, the liberation of the self from itself. Will humanity witness the appearance of the ‘enlightened’ one who unites all of us?

Robert May is a teacher and a writer on the subjects of psychology, religion and mythology. He has written some books in this field which include Cosmic Consciousness Revisited, Echoes of God, A Journal of One Man’s Search for God, and Oz and Other Myths of the Journey. Dr. May’s spiritual search began in 1962 when he was twenty years old. In 1971 he resigned his college teaching position and “entered the path”. In his inner journey he had spiritual teachers from different traditions such as the Aricans, Sufism, Taoism, Yoga, Tibetan Buddhism, Kabbala, Jungian analysis in a Christian mystical context, Incan Indian teachings, and a course in Miracles, which is about modern Christian Mystical Teachings.

His book PHYSICIANS OF THE SOUL is the product of this inner journey which took ten years of studies and practice. The book was first published in 1982 by Crossroad, New York. Then a revised edition was published in 1991 by Element. Dr. May tried to relate modern psychological theory to the practice of religion in an attempt to reveal the inner meaning of the world’s great religions. Although modern psychology failed to find answers to his perplexity and inability to cure his wounds, he found in the teachings of the Masters of world’s religion comfort and illumination. To heal his wounds, he called upon the help of Christ, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Krishna, Muhammad and Moses, all at once.
PHYSICIANS OF THE SOUL is a book about the search of the soul, the True Self, and about calling upon a “spiritual” physician to make the quest to heal the wounded soul. In his Prologue, Dr. May traces this theme not only in both Western and Eastern literary, mythological and spiritual traditions but also in the science of Psychology.
PHYSICIANS OF THE SOUL strikes us with very crucial questions such as: What happened to Western man’s vision in the last hundred years? What happened to our souls under the direct supervision of modern psychology and psychiatry? How come these “presumed disciplines” of the soul or psyche deny the existence of the human soul? Has the God of “Science” all of a sudden distorted modern man’s vision? Have the materialistic philosophies in biology, physics and socio-economics blinded our eyes? What kind of new “Idolatry” do we have in this age? Are we aware of it?
In his search for answers to these questions, Dr. May is simply telling us that Idolatry not only “blinds our eyes, but it also kills the soul”. He reviews with us briefly but with insight theories of Modern Psychology from Freud to Adler and how he has tried to find there any kind of healing to his soul, but in vain. It was, however, with Jung’s and Rank’s pioneering work that Dr. May started looking for Spiritual Rebirth in the psychologies of the world’s great spiritual teachers.
What is “Spiritual Rebirth”? This is Dr. May’s main question and actually his “discovery” of the inner Journey. His main motivation for this inner Journey was to find answers to heal his wounded soul, but he ended up not only with valuable answers, but also with spiritual rebirth. In deep personal reflection he asks: Do we consider the experiences of the mystics and masters as recorded in religious scripture experiences of Spiritual Rebirth? Was Moses’ s experience of the “burning bush” or Jesus’ “descent of the holy dove” or the enlightenment of Buddah under the Bodhi tree, or the revelation of the “archangel Gabriel” to Muhammad, a contribution to this Rebirth?
In his book PHYSICIANS OF THE SOUL, Dr. May devotes a chapter to the life and the teachings of each of the great spiritual Masters of the world. He tells us his personal experience with each one in detail. Each chapter is full of powerful dreams and visions he experienced while ‘entering the path’. He is always accompanied by a spiritual teacher to guide him to live the message of each Master. Although each Master represents a unique message, yet they are all One Message. They all reached the Source of Life within, and they all came with the same wisdom. As Dr. May recorded “They knew the Laws of Man and Life in general.”
Chapter one is about Lao Tzu, the Old Sage, who was Confucius’ teacher. His wisdom known as Taoism can be summarized as follows: “When a capable man’s time comes, he rises, if it does not, then he just wanders wearily around. … Give up, sir, you’re many wishes, mannerisms, and extravagant claims. They won’t do you any good, sir! That’s all I have to tell you.” Lao Tzu’s book Tao Te Ching (The Way of Life) became the sacred scriptures of Taoism. The main subject of this book is the Tao . For Lao Tzu the essence of existence is the Tao, as for Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad it is God. Lao Tzu expressed his feelings and concept of Tao as theFace” Eternal, the Source of our being, the One that gives his teaching without words, the Mystic Mother, Whose goodness is like water, the absolute vacuity, the Perfect Peace, the Sustainer, the Wholeness, the Original Face .” Lao Tzu believes that our true origin is Tao (God). This Truth existed before birth. But how would we know this Tao? Lao Tzu’s wisdom is to live in the Tao to “make your heart deep in it” to “allow Tao to speak through you”. “ He who does not deviate from his proper place” will feel Tao. What is the “proper place?” Dr. May explains that it is the “true calling”, “not what your parents want you to be, or your teachers, or your culture, but what you are called to be in your heart of hearts.”
Then you will know that Tao is “the flowing course of nature and the universe” and as Lao Tzu says:
The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao; The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name.
Chapter two is about Moses, the Liberator. The story of Moses is not only the story of liberating his people from the unjust Pharaoh, it also indicates liberating the “self ” from imprisonment, it is the quest of the soul to be free. As Dr. May says, “It is the struggle against the ‘superego’ or the unjust authorities. When the ‘superego’ prevails, we lose our ‘identity’ or ‘ I am-ness’. “ Dr. May elaborates on this issue to show how this loss is the core problem of neurosis. He also explains how authority, even parental, can lead to slavery. For example, children who don’t receive unconditional love fall victims of losing their “original, innate I am-ness” which is the loss of freedom to choose one’s own way, and “the right to be treated as a person with a soul.” Dr. May puts it in simple words: “Slavery means a loss of being”. Moses corresponds to the appearance of “the Wise Man. He is the initial guide on the Way to Freedom, the Inward Light.” This is what he witnessed:
“ and the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame out of the midst of the bush; and he looked, and behold, it was not consumed. And Moses said: “ I will turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said: “Moses, Moses.” And he said: “Here am I.” And He said: “Draw not nigh hither; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”
Moses saw the inward light coming from a “burning bush”. It is from within that our souls experience God. In his inner Journey with Moses, Dr. May experienced how “ God within knows our sufferings and alienation and He wants to take us to the land of “honey” or the “land of promise” which is “ the kingdom of our true Self ”. And God said to Moses; “ I AM THAT I AM”.
Jesus, the Christ or the “Messiah” is the subject of chapter three. The “Messiah” appeared when the Israelites fell away from God and they were suffering under the Roman Empire. The “ Messiah” represents hope at the time of darkness. “He is the Self, the Christ within, who appears ‘unexpectedly’ like a dream or a vision of a new-born child.” Dr. May sheds light on the allegory of Jesus’ story. He was born in a stable, which symbolizes his appearance in most “lowly circumstances”. However, his birth is “virginal” because “it depended upon inner spiritual reality rather than external circumstance”. Again Dr. May’s great contribution in this chapter is how he relates the story of Jesus in terms of modern psychology. As he says, “ The story of Jesus is full of archetypal symbolism.” For example, “ the three wise men coming from the East to Jerusalem asking about him symbolizes an archetype of the Collective
Unconscious. Their gifts to him are symbolic. Gold is a symbol of the self. The heavenly star that leads the way is a symbol of consciousness and Inner Light, as Jesus says, “the Kingdom is within”. So Jesus is the name, and the “Christ” is the meaning, or the incarnation of the True Self. His baptism also, as Dr. May explains, reveals spiritual meanings; to be baptized in water is to return to “ Unconscious Depth”, and to be baptized in the “fire” is “to make the spirit in you move.” It is the light of enlightenment (the descending dove), as Jesus said, “You must be born anew.” Dr. May refers to these episodes as a state of “perfection”, to act in harmony with God or what Jesus called “Abba” or “Father”, the Son and the Father in complete harmony, “ All in All”.
In psychological terms, Jesus is the “Holy Grail”, the spiritual healer. Jesus said, “He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” He is also the fisherman who said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Again, the Christ, as the “fish”, is the treasure found only in the water, (the Unconscious, the depth). Also when we are the “ salt of the earth” or “the light of the world”, the self-( “I” ) is dissolved. Then the True Self shines. Finally, Dr. May placed the crucifixion of Jesus in a psychological framework which illustrates that it is a “step towards resurrection.” With this act of redemption the message of Christ has spread in the whole world. It is the transformation of an act of evil to goodness. The spiritual lesson here is, “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” This little self needs to “die” in order to be “reborn to the God-created Self.” This is not physical death, but spiritual transformation. “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field.” In Crucifixion the ego is gone and in Resurrection the True Self survive. “ I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” We become blessed spirits, yet we always have to be “awake” : “And what I say to you, I say to all, “Watch”.
“Watch”, or be awake was the way an Indian prince called Siddhattha Gotama, took to be enlightened or to become “ Buddha”. Chapter four deals with Gotama who was born in 563 B.C, almost 600 years before Jesus. How did he follow Jesus’ way of illumination? How did Gotama become a Buddha? He sought for enlightenment in what he called the “ middle way”. It is a way between the extremes of “asceticism and indulgence.” We see in Buddha’s story the same symbols as those we saw in the birth of the Christ. He washed himself in the river (baptism); he rejected the world and directed himself to a fig tree where he was tempted by Mara (Satan). In the light of consciousness he managed to transform Karma (the cycle of deeds, based on cause and effect) into wisdom.
The main teachings of Buddha are to liberate the self from the wheel of life which binds. It is the endless cycle of suffering which starts with ignorance and ends in the illusion of ego which is the cause of suffering. If we remove ignorance, we will break the chain of “Samsara”. Then we will be above birth, old age, death. And thus reach “Nirvana” (Resurrection). Reaching Nirvana (enlightenment) is then the True Self. How can we reach this stage? Buddha says, “if you wish to seek the Buddha, you ought to see into your own Nature for this Nature is the Buddha himself. If, instead of seeing into your own Nature, you turn away to seek the Buddha in external things, you will never get at him.” As Jesus said, “the Kingdom of Heaven is within.”
In this chapter, Dr. May puts this story in psychological terms: “The transformation of one’s consciousness from Samsaric consciousness (ignorance about law of life), when we see the world through the lenses of the ego, to Nirvanic consciousness (enlightenment), when we gain insight into the self and the world. The distinction between the self and the Truth is the same as the one between ego and True self in psychology. Ego is the self that feels itself to be separated, that identifies itself with mortal body and hence lives in fear of death, which experiences hatred and envy, and which yearns after temporary pleasures and vanities. True Self is your identity in God. Your True Self was there all the time. It takes a shedding of the opaque layers of the ego to see it.” As Buddha says: “ the Truth is immortal.” and “death will never affect him who has espoused the Truth.” In Jesus words, “ The Truth shall set you free”. The highest name of God is the “Truth.”
Chapter five deals with the development of Hinduism through the writing of some mystical epics, such as Bhaaggavad Gita, or “The Song of God”. It was written by the poet Vyasa about whom very little is known. Dr. May describes this epic as “ a reflection upon the question’ who am I?’ Am I this social role? Am I this body? Am I this set of life experiences? Am I this inquiring mind? Am I ‘I’?” The Gita tells us that the self can never be contained in a concept. The self is a bridge. Krishna says: “Self is the bridge. When man crosses that bridge, if blind, he shall see; if sick, he shall be well; if unhappy, he shall be happy. When he crosses that bridge, though it be night, it shall be day; for heaven is shining always.” The epic was written in the form of a dialogue between Arjuna (ego figure) and Krishna (True Self). Krishna is one of the avatars or saviors. He is the Christ of the Hindu religion. The epic begins with Arjuna, a warrior who finds himself in a state of total “despondency” in the midst of a great battle. Suddenly the whole battle, and even life itself, seemed “pointless” to him.
Arjuna (ego) pleads with Krishna (True Self), “I Put myself into your hands. Show me the way.” He has placed himself in the hands of a “guru” (a spiritual teacher). In terms of modern psychology, he “has reached the limits of his ego’s understanding, and he has turned within to the higher teacher.” Krishna continues to teach Arjuna about “Atman”. Who is the “Atman”? The True Self: “There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor any of these kings. Nor is there any future in which we shall cease to be.” This is very much the same as the saying of Jesus, “Before Abraham even was, I am.” This “Truth” refers not only to Jesus, but also to the true Self in every man. Dr. May says that the True Self is the “dweller within”, the Atman, the Buddha, the Christ, the Tao, the messenger of God.
In modern psychology, only the Jungians affirm the reality of the higher Self. Krishna, Dr. May adds, “is more than the Self (is), which is the archetype of wholeness. It IS that and much more than that. The Self can say: “There was never a time when I did not exist…” Dr. May defends this idea saying, ”to those who would reject the Self as ‘unscientific’ because it cannot be seen by the external senses, or to be measured by scientific instruments, or even be ‘logically’ defined, Krishna concedes: “This Atman cannot be manifested to the senses, or thought about by the mind.” The Atman, or Self, cannot be known in the way that we know, for example, about the moons of Jupiter. Nor can it be known in the way that we know about electrons or protons. It is not an ‘object’ at all either of sensory perception or intellectual conceptualization.”
About the Atman, Krishna says: “There are some who have actually looked upon the Atman, and understood it, in all its wonder. Others can only speak of It as wonderful beyond their understanding. Others know of Its wonder by hearsay. And there are others who are told about It and do not understand a word.” Jesus spoke similarly, “ it was given to them to know the Kingdom of Heaven because their eyes were open and their eyes were awake.” But it was not given to everybody to know of these “Mysteries.” Jesus said: “this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes have closed.”
Hindus view the history of humanity as a decline from a “Golden Age” to the “Iron Age”. They also believe that the Golden Age will be revived with the coming of a new avatar. This corresponds to the Christian concept of the Second Coming of the Christ, or Messiah. Dr. May declares that, “Orthodox Jews, Buddhists, Moslems, and practically every religion I have studied believe very much the same think, i.e., the coming of a Blessed One who will restore humankind to Grace.”
“There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah” is the message of Muhammad. Dr. May devotes the last chapter of this book telling us his actual practice of Islam under the supervision of a Sufi teacher. He says: “The term ‘Islam’ means submission to God. The religion of Islam is the religion of surrender to the will of the omnipotent and omniscient Creator, or the Only God. Muhammad, like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, is a prophet of God who was called by God to fulfill a prophetic mission to the idolatrous Arabs. It is, however, a message to all idolatrous people.” Dr. May briefly reviews the life of Muhammad who lived in an age known as Jahilyya, the “Age of Ignorance”, and Dr. May says that it is not at all different from our present world as each age could be called “the age of savagery”, and ” the absence of social morality... where greed and selfishness are the order of the world. It is the time to kill or be killed, rob or be robbed.”
The religious life at that time was a primitive form of polytheism. The Arabs kept 360 gods in the form of stone idols in the Ka’bah in Mecca. Among those stone idols existed “Allah” which means ”God”. As a teacher of psychology, Dr. May describes this state as a “ projection of complexes and archetypal images” . He asks: “What happens when you idolize your complexes, or even the archetypes of the deeper unconscious?” His answer is: “You become possessed by them. Possession is madness. The symptoms of this madness are never-ending blood feuds, rampant murder and rape, banditry, and infanticide.” This was the collective “sickness” that Muhammad, the prophet, was called upon to try to cure. “And it is the same sickness of our present time.” Dr. May elaborates that conquering idolatry is parallel to the quest of the soul. “Allah Himself was one of the gods in the Ka’bah, although he was recognized as the only One.” What does this mean? As Dr. May states, “ we all allow light to sink back into the darkness. Muhammad was one who followed the light to its Source. He discovered the Unity amidst the multiplicity, and this changed the course of human history.”
What is this Unity and where is it to be found? This is one of the most important questions that Dr. May asks in this book? It is not found in our personality, or our social roles. The following passage from the book answers not only this question, but it also reveals a whole way of life to human beings all over the world guiding them towards knowledge about themselves and the true meaning of life:
“ You will not find the Unity in the worlds of social psychology, or Freudian psychoanalysis, or even Jungian archetypal psychology. You will find images of the Unity, it is true, in the realm of the archetypes (just as you found images of “Allah” in the Ka’bah prior to the time of Muhammad), in dreams, inner visions, and religious symbols. But you will not find the reality of the Unity there. It is not found there, but rather it is to be found in the realm of the Spirit. It is the realm beyond name and form where you will find the Spirit. It is the Tao which cannot be named. It is the realm of God where no graven images are permissible. It is a silent realm. It is the realm about which the Hindus have said, ‘Neti, Neti’, ‘ Not this, Not that.’ It is what Moses discovered on Mount Horeb. It is what Jesus encountered at the River Jordan. It is what Buddha experienced under the Bodhi tree. It is the Atman Krishna showed to Arjuna…. And it is what Muhammad was gradually to become aware of during the years of his spiritual search. It is the reality of the One. Muhammad called this reality Allah, the God. ”
During one all-night vigil in the month of Ramadan (month of fasting), Muhammad had the most crucial experience of his life, a revelation of the archangel Gabriel, who commanded Muhammad to:
“Recite: In the name of thy Lord who created,
created Man of a blood- clot.”
Dr. May comments on this event saying, “Gabriel mediated between the psyche of Muhammad and the Divine. Mystics and sages report their experiences of ‘Angelic Beings’ and ‘the spirit’, but we in our materialistic culture of today find it hard to believe. …Believe it or not, there are specialists in the realm of the soul and Spirit, and Muhammad was one such. He had a God- given gift. It was necessary for him to develop the use of his spiritual gift over many years. When revelation itself finally came, it was overwhelming even to Muhammad. His second revelation was.”
“O thou enveloped in thy cloak, Arise and warn! Thy Lord magnify. Thy raiment purify, Pollution shun!”
Muhammad called this self-realization “Jihad”, or “Holy War”. The word “jihad” in Arabic means “Supreme Effort”. Although Muhammad fought external idolaters, he said that the “Greater Holy War is within oneself ”. Dr. May continues to show how Muhammad was a psychologist as well as a prophet and statesman. “Anyone who starts this war will find out the need to call upon the supreme inward power, the Self, or Allah within… With trust in God, Muhammad won his struggle.” “Winning” is simply finding yourself. Dr May says: “This necessitates the destroying of your own inner idols, and the establishing of the true Self in their place as the ‘rule’ of ‘our own inner house’, or ‘Ka'bah’ , and Muhammad is your inner prophet and holy warrior. After you smash all your inner idols, you can say: ‘There is no god, but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.’ Now you are a Moslem, the one who renounces idols, within and without. Whoever can say, ‘There is no god but God’ is a Moslem in the universal sense of renouncing idolatry.” Dr. May adds, “In this sense, Abraham can be viewed as the ‘first Moslem’. He was the patriarch of the three world religions, it began by his renunciation of idolatry.” As it states in the Holy Koran, Muhammad verified what had been sent before him:
That is the Book, wherein is no doubt,
a guidance to the god-fearing
Who believe in the Unseen, and perform the prayer,
and expend of that We have provided them;
who believe in what has been sent down to thee
and what has been sent down before thee,
and have faith in the Hereafter;
those are upon guidance from their Lord,
those are the ones who prosper.
Dr. May shares with us in the “Epilogue” of the book his personal vision about the future of humanity. In his vision he sees an all-seeing eye at the tip of a pyramid making contact with Divine Reality. He interprets this vision as having a person who has awakened to the ‘Inner Eye’ of the Spirit. He says; “ Such a person is in contact with God. This person is the one who is born again, enlightened, liberated. It is at this level that true prayer is possible and revelation can take place. Revelation is communication between God and man. It takes place at the level at which the human person ‘touches’ God, that is, at the level of the Spiritual Self. If one person is operating from the level of the Spiritual Self, everybody around him and perhaps all the people all over the world will share this experience to some degree.….The Spiritual Self is that which is within us which unites us with our fellow human beings. It is strange that what is most unique to each person is also what is most universal. Between the true Self of one individual and the true Self of another, a ‘spark’ can jump which illumines the vision of both persons to the Kingdom. The sacred dimension is between as well as within.”
Will his vision become true? Will humanity witness a person who is in contact with God and who is “operating from the level of the Spiritual Self ” to unite all of us? THE PHYSICIANS OF THE SOUL which states the history of previous Masters foresees that this vision is very much indeed within the possibility of taking place to save humanity!