We live in critical times. Clearly there is widespread suffering in all parts of the world and we see everywhere signs of economic, social, and ecological distress. At the same time, more and more people are beginning to recognize these adverse conditions and are working hard to change them. So, we see, worldwide, as well, an increased concern for human rights and the just distribution of resources, a keener sensitivity to the natural environment, a growing call for peace, and everywhere a search for new ways of living that will sustain rather than destroy Life on earth. It is a time of crisis and immense change on this planet and all of us are affected.
These conditions touch the life of the helping professional in at least two ways. First, as these new factors increasingly affect clients' lives- as inner and outer psycho-social structures break down, and as new possibilities for living are born- concerns and issues arise with which the professional is not necessarily equipped to deal. He, or she, may find that some of the familiar ideas about healing and development are becoming less useful, and, in some cases, obsolete, as our culture continues to evolve in response to these larger influences. Secondly, these conditions can bear on the professional's own life, leading to personal questioning of identity, role, and accustomed modes of working and living. And, over time, both can result in the experience of increasing ineffectiveness, burnout, and frustration for the professional and in a decrease in the quality of real help available to clients.
The basic question is, how can we, as professionals, best respond to these new conditions? What ways of working with others will enable both person and planet to survive this crisis and reach a deeper experience of health and vitality? Over the last decades, in response to this question, many fine attempts to revise existing psychological theory and method and to develop new "schools" of treatment and intervention have been made. But what is still largely missing is a comprehensive context that can recast the helping professions and their relationship to healing and development in ways that will respond more fully and effectively to the new conditions of our present and future lives.
Central and essential to this new comprehensive context is the spiritual dimension of human experience. By "spiritual" is meant that aspect of our everyday experience through which we discover that we are connected to, and participate in, the whole of Creation. It is that aspect that joins us, as individuals, with our own true nature and with all other forms of life and the Universe, while at the same time, in this union, paradoxically, we remain essentially, and most distinctly and uniquely, ourselves. This dimension is often hidden in people, and private, but is a source of healing, wisdom, power, and love which can be drawn upon for strength, direction, and meaning in living a full and very human life.
Until recently this dimension has been largely ignored in serious professional work, or relegated to "religion". Now, however, a growing number of people, in a range of fields, are recognizing its presence and efficacy as an organizing principle behind psychological and organizational life, and are studying the dynamic interplay between the spiritual and bio-psycho-social dimensions of human existence. This study includes not only the individual life, but also the life of groups, cultures, and the earth, and the interplay between these different levels of organization, seen within a spiritual context. But, no matter what the specific setting, the overall intent is to learn to utilize our vast spiritual resources more deliberately, and to contact, and constructively release, these energies so that health and well-being are restored at all levels of our living, person to planet.