Introduction: My Personal Opinion
Daniel Liberman’s book, Spellbound, was a difficult read for me. I tackled a few chapters a day for the past week and with all due respect, I felt like some of the text was indirectly dark. The more I read about unlocking the potential of our minds with references to magic, mystery, and even tarot cards, the greater my bias grew. I feel uncomfortable criticizing any of our assignments but in full transparency, I was turned off by the opening line. After reading a few chapters I open-mindedly considered my own conscious and unconscious bias and stand by my initial “intuition.”
The supernatural is very real. There is a light and dark side of the unseen realm, and darkness attempts to illuminate the pliant mind with a positive spin such as “unlocking your potential.” I may have missed the entire point of this book but I felt like he was promoting magic as a bridge to understanding consciousness. I kept asking myself, ‘Why?’ Perhaps there is good insight from an apologetics defense to know the enemy, or one can gleam some of the opposer’s playbook like the Screwtape Letters, but in general, we’re clearly instructed to stay away from such acts or ways. The Bible condemns involvement in occult practices, emphasizing the importance of relying on God for guidance. Deuteronomy 18:10-12 warns against divination, sorcery, interpreting omens, and consulting mediums – declaring them as detestable to the Lord. As Christians, we are called to avoid seeking answers from mystical sources that stand deviously in opposition to our faith. I believe our resistance also applies to knowledge or education. We should draw a hard line in the sand on some ideas and discern and frame any study appropriately.
The book was heavily influenced by the psychoanalytic philosophies of Carl Jung. I took a short detour from the book to discover more about Jung and learned that his contribution to psychiatry is considered questionable on many platforms, even his relationship to Freud is controversial. Nonetheless, they differed in their views of psychoanalytics. Jordan Peterson sites an unacceptable “oversight by Jung” in a public interview concerning his limited view on extroversion, stating “ he never formalized his ideas on neuroticism and negative emotion,” and with this oversight, he missed “the core feature of what we consider psychopathology.” Other scholars criticize Jung’s work as ‘limited,’ and my personal interpretation is that Jung and Lieberman are brilliant in their own regard but Jung’s contributions to the world of psychoanalytics tend to reference the darker subject matter.
The Brain and The Mind
Distinguishing the difference between the brain and the mind is a crucial element in a discussion on consciousness. While the intricacies of both remain beyond comprehension, there is a unity regarding the view of the mind’s complexity and the profound impact it has on our lives. The human mind and brain are undeniably remarkable, and I don’t contest the scientific definitions regarding the brain’s anatomy or its role as an organ in the body. My struggle lies in reconciling the concepts of the brain and the mind as the same, particularly in response to Lieberman’s assertions about control and choice. Throughout the book, I was tracking with Lieberman’s exploration of brain function and the influence of the unconscious mind on our feelings, emotions, and mood. However, I diverged from his perspective when he repeatedly alluded to our unconscious minds controlling our decisions. He opened the book with this presumption, “You think you’re calling all the shots – that you’re in charge of your thoughts, feelings, and choices. You’re not.” It’s a great opener and set the tone for the entire book, however, I would have been more interested had he rephrased it without including choice.
In the pursuit of understanding the unconscious mind from a Christian perspective and arguing choice on the side of cognitive ego over unconscious determinism, it is imperative to emphasize the distinction between the subconscious, the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the allure of mystical practices such as tarot cards, spells, or witchcraft. When it comes to crediting influence, I agree we can gain a lot from examining a supernatural perspective, however, I do not believe Spellbound acknowledges the appropriate sources. Lieberman claims, “We no longer believe in the pervasive influence of supernatural entities,” and “we credit ourselves with having exclusive control over what goes on inside our heads.” I sadly believe this is the majority consensus in today’s world, however, Christians with a deep connection to the Holy Spirit would argue that ‘the war of influence in our head’ is not solely a product of genetic coding or learned behaviors.
Distinguishing between the work of the Holy Spirit and other influences on our minds requires a keen awareness and a deep connection with our faith. It involves discernment that goes beyond the tangible and delves into the supernatural. The nature of the Holy Spirit’s influence should not be mistaken or replaced with magical interpretation. It is an extraordinary manifestation of God’s presence in our lives. I believe that we not only have control over our choices, we can build endurance to resist temptations, which gives us more control, wisdom, patience, and confidence. In the same way, we can also form terrible habits that lead us away from God and completely ignore or miss his calls, promises, and personal interactions. Jordan Peterson backs up this argument by suggesting a defense to nihilistic behaviors with “The development and maintenance of good practice and habits.”
Overall, I feel like I learned a lot this week. I agree that our thoughts and feelings are influenced by something deeper that we don’t understand completely, but I’d like to draw another hard line we are very much in control of our choices and we have free will. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, Paul writes, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” The problem is, that most of the world has terrible habits that cloud the decisions we make, miss the fullness of God in us, and allow the control of the unconscious mind to gain strength. We can condition one or the other so we must ask ourselves, which side of the war are we assisting the most?
1. Lieberman, Spellbound, Subtitle
2. Deut. 18:10-14
3. Peterson, Jordan; Where Carl Jung was Wrong, YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjBkKDvjbFc
4. Lieberman, Spellbound, xi
5. Ibid, xiv.
6. Peterson, Jordan. 5:55, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjBkKDvjbFc
7. 1 Cor. 10:13