Sticks and Stones
How many times as children did we used to say, ‘STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT NAMES WILL NEVER HURT ME?’ Growing up, I used to say it all the time. Then, several years after giving my life to Christ, I began to learn the meaning of words. And I finally had a light bulb moment when I realized words can hurt. Words have meaning – some are polysemous. Fun fact, the word sound has over 19 noun meanings. Scripture tells us that we are created in the image of God and that our words have power. I purposely try to watch what I say because I believe I am made in His image and I am also His representative to my family, friends, community, and more. The average person has an 8th-grade education level. When I teach, whether in a community classroom, community seminars, or church – I am mindful that most of my audience will not take the time to look up words like polysemous. Instead, they will either miss the meaning of what is said or written or pull from the most basic understanding of that particular word. And as my favorite writer in Scripture, Paul did, I meet my audience on their level and then encourage them to go deeper and higher in thought or meaning. How does this relate to Daniel Lieberman’s book, Spellbound? In a circuitous way, I will demonstrate.
Daniel Lieberman is a world-renowned medical doctor, psychiatrist, and clinical professor. In Spellbound, he looks at modern science, ancient magic, or the supernatural to understand the hidden potential of the unconscious mind. Compared to the conscious, the unconscious mind is faster and unencumbered in terms of how many things it can process at once. Hence, the unconscious mind is always at work. Yet very few people know what is happening in their unconscious mind and have little control over it. One of the reasons Lieberman delves into the workings of the unconscious mind is to understand better how it communicates with the conscious. A partnership exists between the two, whether we realize it or not. He states that one of the most essential goals in life is to forge an effective partnership between the two parts of the mind. Some of the ways communication takes place are through the body, emotions, gut feelings, intuition, and inspiration. As a psychiatrist, his work attempts to answer such questions as: how does the unconscious work, where does it come from, and how does it impact our behavior? Lieberman argues that science and the supernatural must be researched and studied to understand the unconscious. The supernatural helps us to understand why we act irrationally. The ancient stories teach us how to foster cooperation and harmony between the two parts (conscious and unconscious) to achieve a certain harmony within. Both are needed – going from the metaphysical to the literal.
In Spellbound, frequently, the word mysticism and mystical concepts are used. He sometimes expounds on the words to mean “unity of all things” and universal love. These attributes are promoted by the unconscious mind derived from mystical encounters (religious, spiritual, or drug-induced). His goal is to demonstrate that transcendence is the ultimate state of being. Truly one within our conscious and unconscious self. In “Jungian psychology, transcendence is seen in the unity of opposites…the joining of darkness with the light and the spiritual with the chthonic (meaning the underworld)”.
Reading about Lieberman and his work piqued my interest to revisit Carl Jung since he had a significant impact on Lieberman, and his (Jung’s) work is sprinkled throughout Spellbound. Carl Jung led the way in studying mysticism, folklore, earth gods, and other primitive stories to understand the unconscious. Jung’s work takes us from the field of scientific experiments to mystical experiments. In Modern Psychotherapies, Jung is credited for including spirituality in his analytic approach to studying the unconscious. Albeit, his spirituality was heavily influenced by the occult on both a personal and professional level, and he had repeated encounters with “spirits” throughout his adult life. “Thus, the Christian reader of Jungian psychology must be extremely cautious when encountering phrases and concepts borrowed from Christian theology.” Jung had a difficult time with Christianity because of his father’s double-minded faith. Consequently, some of the answers he provides as we struggle with becoming mature Christians are deeply concerning because they are re-imagined through his system of thought.
The fruit of Lieberman and Jung’s work has provided a way for individuals and practitioners to help those struggling with understanding why their behavior, thoughts, feelings, and emotions are sometimes uncontrollable. However, according to a 2018 Pew Research article, there has been an increase in new-age practices, even within Christianity. There may need to be more than this article to draw a direct line between Jung, Lieberman, and New Age practices. To the average person, the word myth typically implies a pseudo-religious or pagan embracing practice, i.e., new age. In light of this, and when you consider some of the Spellbound book reviews – it is clear that many people are using new-age words to describe how the book has impacted them.
I see a black versus white issue here (not racial – but color). The deep, darker self that Lieberman and Jung describe is analogous to our sinful nature. Unfortunately, Christians live with the duality of this nature on this side. However, the Holy Spirit enables us to walk with self-control over the relics of our sinful nature. It helps us to take captive every thought and vain imagination (sounds like the unconscious) that exalts itself against the knowledge of Jesus. Will we ever learn everything about ourselves? Probably not. The secular arena has gone in the direction of science and ancient supernatural traditions and stories, and it is the closest scientists can get to understanding how beautifully wonderful and complex God has made us.
 Dr. Phil Stieg, “Magic, Myths, and the Unconscious Mind,” February 10, 2023, This Is Your Brain Podcast, https://thisisyourbrainwithdrphilstieg.libsyn.com/magic-myths-and-the-unconscious-mind-4
 Daniel Z. Lieberman, MD, Spellbound: Modern Science, Ancient Magic, and the Hidden Potential of the Unconscious Mind (Dallas: BenBella Books., Inc., 2022), 5.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., 27.
 Ibid., 211.
 Ibid., 212.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ibid., 7.
 Stanton L. Jones and Richard E. Butman, Modern Psychotherapies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1991), 121.
 Ibid., 122.
 Ibid., 122.
 Ibid., 139.
 Claire Gecewicz, ‘New Age’ beliefs common among both religious and nonreligious Americans,’ (October 1, 2018) https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2018/10/01/new-age-beliefs-common-among-both-religious-and-nonreligious-americans/