Adam Sandler, Tattoos, and the weird world of my mind.
I invite you into a journey with me. It is a journey in a very strange land. It’s a quick journey – just a few sentences. I am going to share with you an experience while reading Dr. Daniel Lieberman’s book Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind. This a journey of my unconscious mind.
It went like this: I was reading Spellbound. While reading, I received a text from a friend. “Anyone interested in seeing Adam Sandler? His comedy tour is coming to Portland in October.” My unconscious took over and my mind wandered as I was reading.
Adam Sandler. He’s funny. Surprisingly, he’s a good basketball player. Hey, basketball! The FIBA basketball world cup ended recently. Team USA didn’t do too well. I think Devin Brooker is going to join in the Olympics. He’ll help for sure. Does he have any tattoos? Ja Morant got some crazy back tattoo that required four artists working at the same time. His tattoo is weird. The art from his tattoo reminds me of playing Nintendo with Ryan in middle school. Ryan. Miss that guy. I should call him. I remember him being a picky eater. I’m hungry.
That all happened within 10 seconds without me realizing my mind was wandering. I snapped out of it and continued reading even though this mental processing happened while reading.
My mind is a weird place. But before you make a snap judgment, I would argue that your mind is also a very strange place. If we walked through the land of your unconscious mind for a minute, we too would say, “Whoa. Weird.”
What’s ironic is that this was real-time engagement with what Lieberman wrote about in his book. For this blog post, I will summarize Lieberman’s Spellbound and write about the implications of his content for spiritual formation into the likeness of Jesus.
We live in a culture that values science and reason above all. The empirical and rational is true. We don’t pay much attention to magic and fairy tales. But Lieberman, who is deeply influenced by C.G. Jung and pulls from his work throughout Spellbound, argues we are missing out.
Lieberman points out that our ego (conscious “self”) is just a part of us and, in comparison to our unconscious, it does far less thinking. The ego processes 10-60 bits of information per second. Our unconscious processes 11 million per second.
The unconscious is mysterious and unnational. We, as post-Enlightenment Westerners, have great difficulty accepting and gleaning wisdom from the unconscious. Lieberman argues that the ancients were far more equipped to deal with the unconscious. They did not minimize the spiritual realm. And they utilized magic and myth to make sense of the mystery of the unconscious.
As humans, we need story. We desire transcendence. But these are longings that science cannot provide. To become whole, we need to not ignore our unconscious mind, even though our unconscious is mysterious and irrational, but recognize our unconscious, listen, name our unconscious thoughts and experiences, and integrate our unconscious into our “self”. This is the path to transcendence:
Figure 1 – Lieberman’s diagram of the journey to transcendence.
Invitation for Spiritual Formation
Lieberman gives meditation as a key action step for moving along the journey to transcendence. In Christian vernacular, transcendence is understood as “union” with God. In writing about knowing God with our “heart,” Dr. Bruce Demarest, a voice in Christian Spiritual Formation, writes, “Heart knowledge means loving God with all our faculties of thinking, intuiting, willing, feeling, and relating. It’s a knowledge formed by personal connection and lived experience, not by intellectualizing alone.” Particularly in the Evangelical tradition, we have settled for intellectual “knowing” through Biblical knowledge, but have not engaged in the inner work God invites us into. It would be wise for Christians to critically yet openly heed Lieberman’s invitation to mindfulness, but do so in partnership with the Spirit of God. In so doing, we can become aware of our unconscious, name it (particularly our sin struggles, trauma and insecurity), and become renewed from the inside out. Meditation, union with God, is key to increasing awareness of our unconscious, thus becoming more whole.
 Daniel Z. Lieberman, Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind (Dallas, TX: BenBella Dooks, Inc, 2022).
 Ibid. 14-15.
 Ibid. 22.
 Ibid. 215.
 Bruce A. Demarest, Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the Heart of Christian Spirituality (Colorado Springs, Colo: Navpress, 1999), 96.