A more spiritual approach to psychiatry
Maurie Pressman is a conventionally trained psychiatrist who is emeritus chairman of psychiatry at Albert Einstein Medical Center and emeritus clinical professor of psychiatry at Temple Medical School. At 90, he still sees patients and is learning and sharing his findings.
The latest evidence is his new book, Living in the Supermind: From Personal Mind to Spiritual Mind. As a youth, Pressman was torn between becoming a physician or a rabbi, and that spiritual yearning has never abated. Over the last 40 years, Pressman, who lives in Center City, has studied the potential of the human mind and soul. He practices what he calls "spiritual psychotherapy," exploring the links between traditional psychiatry and mankind's spiritual proclivities. His work ranges from quantum physics to Eastern mysticism.
An early pioneer in visualization, Pressman created a program in 1972 for Olympic ice skaters using hypnosis and visualization for, among others, the team of Kitty and Peter Carruthers, who went on to win silver in 1984. The on-ice results were surprising, he says. Beyond just a positive mind-set, evidence showed the work was reflected in changes in muscles, neurologic activity, and connective tissue. It was a powerful display of the enormous impact of the mind-body connection.
Supermind is an unusual book for a man who, like most scientists, once considered anything that was not empirically provable "flaky." Though it deals with the spirit and soul, it also emphatically posits the existence of God and a "God mind." It honors the validity of near-death and after-death experiences, the immortality of the soul, and the prospect of reincarnation, the return of the "I" in an improved form.
Pressman thinks that there are several levels of consciousness and that we have the power to access superior minds, such as the heart/mind (the heart is capable of valuable intuition) that let us see more and live better.
"There is within us a mind beyond imagination," he writes. "It is a Supermind which offers the power of knowledge, love, and inspiration beyond dreams . . .. It was once available to civilizations across the world but it became suppressed as the intellect developed and hypertrophied . . .. It is full of light, images, feelings, harmony, peace, bliss."
I told Pressman, who is Jewish, that there were quasi-religious aspects to Supermind. That it seems like another belief system, a matter of faith, that frankly was beyond my ken and credulity. There are religious aspects to Supermind, Pressman conceded, but it is a religion of self-realization, without dogma or doctrine, other than the fact that we are all, human beings as well as plants, animals, germs, and atoms, interrelated and part of a whole, a Divine Oneness.
"We are indeed part of each other, all connected like a node in a spider's web," he said.
His introduction to "energy medicine" and spiritual dynamics came when he attended an ashram in the Catskills in 1978. There, a guru named Baba Muktananda caressed him with a peacock feather and lightly put two fingers into his eye sockets. "Immediately, I went into a spasm of joy and love for him and began to see how the whole worked, an opening through which I saw how things could be," he says.
This epiphany led him to steer his practice in the direction of spiritual psychotherapy, which relies heavily on intuition, sensitivity to subtlety, and identification with the patient. Pressman's own access to the Supermind has enhanced his ability as a therapist, he says.
In his book, Pressman relates: "I began to receive messages and see 'moving pictures,' as if in the mind of my patient. I would hear what they were going to say before anything was said. This knowing went beyond my training and reading, and it was coordinate with the new knowledge about the mind that was coming in from quantum physics, and which had been described by the early masters for centuries."
Jonas Salk, Pressman says, has written of developing the polio vaccine by figuratively becoming the disease itself, through the power of his imagination identifying so closely with how it operated and functioned that he was able to devise a cure.
Pressman claims he has been able to relieve people suffering from severe depression and anxiety, without medication (which he uses only as a last resort) by removing such barriers as rational resistance and self-doubt.
We, too, can enlist the powers of the Supermind, Pressman says, through intuition, introspection, meditation, and bravely facing or "shaking hands with" our psychological troubles. His trinity of essential advice:
Look inside, be aware of your feelings.
Face your fears instead of running away from them.
Apply these practices regularly so you can tap into the untapped powers of your Supermind.