The Universe as a Hologram (with video)

by The Rev. Dr. Jerry F. Smith, S.T.D., WPCA President

What if you had a magic carpet that would take you to anywhere in the universe? Well, you do!

Let me explain. On many credit cards there is a little silvery picture. When you tilt it seems to move and be three-dimensional—it’s a hologram. Holograms are different from the usual two-dimensional pictures you can take or can hang on your wall. If you were to cut a square out of a two-dimensional image and somehow project it, you would get the exact content of that square. If you cut a square out of a hologram and project it, you will get an exact replica the whole, entire, 3-D figure.

But, you ask, how did you get from credit cards to the universe? I recently viewed a youtube video entitled, “The Universe as a Hologram” by Leonard Susskind.

Dr. Susskind is a world class theoretical physicist and he and his colleagues think that black holes and the universe we live in, are holograms. That is, any place you are in a black hole or in this universe, with the right equipment, you can get to any other place because they’re all inter-connective systems.

Since the beginning of time humans have had “holographic” visions. People we call saints and/or holy ones have related these visions up until the present day. I have a friend, who I can swear is psychologically sound, who told me that they “saw and traveled to” the afterlife and this universe, in all their dimensions, just last week.

How does this apply to systemic counselors and their patients? I use the term “systemic counselors” to mean counselors who see all things as systems where all of the parts are related to every other part and affect everything in the system. If you have a systemic pastoral counseling viewpoint, you are capable of entering any place in a patients’ world, with access to any other part of their world.

This systemic perspective is invaluable when working with an individual, a couple, a family, or a group. Systemic pastoral counselors can observe the seemingly most trivial statement, act, or thought and connect it to the core of the issue. That being done, they can help their patients access resources that can lift them out of their problem. This is a far cry from the evidence-based, manualized, or prescriptive counseling that dominates our field.

I can share a clinical example. A colleague was sitting with a family—Chuck, the father, Rosemary, the mother, Andy, the 19 year old son, and Judy, the 15 year old daughter. Judy came in with tears in her eyes, but was mute. After the usual pleasantries, Rosemary mentioned, in passing, that a letter came in the mail today. Obviously, something had gone on before they got to my colleague’s office, but they were mum about it. Among the chit chat Judy kept dabbing at her eyes. Finally, my colleague asked, “You mentioned a letter. What did it say?” And ALL HELL BROKE LOSE!

A simple question, but the answer contained the family’s black hole and the whole universe of suffering they shared.

We at WCPA enthusiastically celebrate every one of you who practices in this way. And we wish you wonder-filled journeys as you ride your magic carpet into your adventures.

Write and tell us about where you are making a difference.

With warmest blessings, Jerry

The Confessional & Confidentiality

by The Rev. Dr. Jerry F. Smith, S.T.D., WPCA President

Washington Pastoral Counselors Association’s (WPCA) motto is, “With you in faith, hope, and love.” So, how does that apply when you are trying to serve your clients and make a living?

One of the geniuses about pastoral counseling is its willingness to stand with you while you embrace some difficult paradoxes. So, where do you look for support in navigating the nearly impossible dilemmas raised by honoring the confidentiality of the people you see?

On one hand, pastoral counselors draw from a most ancient, sacred, and spiritual wellspring; practices and traditions go back to pre-Christian, shamanic origins. On the other, each of us intimately touches all aspects of this current age. We face baffling questions posed by massive internet exposure and the agonizing quandaries of managed care.

Most pastoral counselors have a choice regarding the confidentiality of conversations that take place within the counseling space. Of course, state, federal, and business (i.e., the insurance indus- try) exert influence on just how much can remain secret, and who may breach that privacy boundary. Government often asserts that the needs of the many (e.g., homeland security) or the vulnerable (e.g., at risk children and adults) trump client confidentiality. Third- party insurers/payees also require certain private details of therapeutic conversations be disclosed. Many pastoral counselors regularly face the gut- wrenching balancing act of seeking to honor client communications while saying just enough to satisfy other interested parties.

Other pastoral counselors adhere to some version of the doctrine of the seal of the confessional. As early as 1115 CE the Roman Catholic Church declared the seal of the confessional as law stat- ing, “Let the priest who dares to make known the sins of his penitent be de- posed”, and “be made a life-long, ignominious wanderer.” While this language seems overly dramatic and harsh for the twenty-first century, the principle of never revealing any part of a confession stands to this day.

Even Washington State law recognizes that any person who is designated as a confessor, by her/his religious organization is exempt from disclosing any- thing shared in that confessional moment.

WPCA recognizes that our sisters and brothers of high integrity, good will, and compassionate souls choose different paths with regard to client confidentiality. Many who choose to collaborate with the State and managed care entities practice the style of pastoral counseling without the “confessor” title. In doing so, they re- port to appropriate governmental agencies to protect the vulnerable in danger of harm, and some work with insurance companies to supplement their income. These pastoral counselors offer the graces of the practice without an official religious mandate.

Those who operate under the umbrella of a religious body claim the rights and exemptions of the confessor to reveal nothing they hear. They contend that they protect the vulnerable by encouraging those who do harm to atone for harmful deeds and make amends to their victims. Sometimes this includes supporting and/or requiring the offender in turning themselves in to the authorities.

I suggest the following:

  • We honor colleagues’ choices regarding how they employ confidentiality and the confessional as their circumstances allow.
  • We affirm and support the view- points of other pastoral counsel- ors regarding how they keep secrets and make their money.
  • We open respectful dialogue about confidentiality and the confessional to advance our under- standings.

I wonder if WPCA might sponsor a professional workshop (6 CEUs) to dialogue more on the subjects of confidentiality and the confessional, and of course, enjoy a fine lunch. With warmest blessings, Jerry

A Bridge Between Chalkboard Science and the Metaphysical Soul

by The Rev. Dr. Jerry F. Smith, S.T.D., WPCA President

The field of Pastoral Psychotherapy is charged with the daunting task of creating a bridge between the “hard” neurosciences and the experience of the metaphysical soul. It seeks to maintain the integrity of each, while heightening the dialogue between them. “Hard” neurosciences ultimately contend that human experience consists of neurochemical processes, rationally expressible as a series of mathematical equations and chemical formulae. What is real, from this perspective, must explicitly yield scientific evidence, as governed by scientific method, and agreed upon by a certain assigned body of peer professionals. This is no recent idea. Manuscripts from Neolithic times cite that ancient Egyptians and contemporary cultures sought the locus of many human problems in the brain, and Sigmund Freud, the founder of modern day psycho- therapy, spent his early career as a brain pathologist seeking the origins of human mental disorders in brain tissue. However vast literature — which includes, but is not limited to, religious traditions of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism — also supports the human experience as metaphysical, wherein reality can transcend that which is perceptible to human senses, and to our intellect.

Metaphysical is defined as the study of what is fundamental to nature and being, and it grapples with two questions: “What is real?” and “What are the properties of that reality?” When amplified these questions evolve into concerns over existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility. Expanding the field to include trans-personal psychology provides an even richer picture. This approach to psychology grew out of other schools including psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanistic psychology; it studies the transpersonal and self-transcendent, or spiritual aspects, of the human experience, and attempts to describe and integrate spiritual experience within modern psychological theory. The concerns of transpersonal psychology include the recognition, understanding, and realization of unitive, spiritual, and transcendent states of consciousness, and it considers issues including spiritual self- development, self beyond the ego, peak experiences, mystical experiences, systemic trance and other sublime and/or unusually expanded experiences of living.

Stark separation between “hard” neurosciences and metaphysics is relatively recent. Until the late eighteenth century, before the advent of the scientific method, the physical and meta-physical had a very congenial interchange around the material and non-material nature of existence. Aristotle, one of the originators of Western science and philosophy, posited an integrated interchange between these two aspects of human experience. And, allowed to converse freely, these two realms birthed astonishing results, like the theory of Relativity.

Sadly, however, while Carl Jung and others laid the legitimate cornerstones of the spiritual and trans-personal in their work, current Western psychology tends to ignore, or disengage from, the spiritual dimension of the human psyche. Nevertheless, pastoral counselors embrace the inclusive dialogical process, and continue to advocate for free, respectful, and non-judgmental discussion between these two parts of our human inquiry. Pastoral counseling establishes a series of contexts that allow for the study, and treatment of the whole human condition.

So, my final questions are: “How do you maintain that free, respectful, and non-judgmental discussion within yourself?” and “How do you enter into it with the broadest spectrum of your professional colleagues?” Please write and tell us your experiences. With warmest blessings, Jerry