Many often wonder about who they really are, why they are here, what their existence signifies, and how they should conduct their lives. In Parallel Paths to Personal Growth, author Eugene X. Pertione provides both a personal and philosophical look into the question of existence and details a search for the seemingly unknowable answer by looking to both nature and spirit.
Parallel Path to Personal Growth shows you how to find your way out of the tangle of conflicting sentiments about what is material and what is spiritual and allow both domains to play a part in your thinking about life. It helps weigh the perspectives of both science and spirituality and demonstrates how they can be integrated meaningfully. Perticone also explains how intuitive moments can increase your awareness of the parallel paths and help you to balance your material and spiritual needs.
Perticone communicates that personal growth is not simply the forward movement of one individual in isolation from everyone and everything else that exists. It is the expression of an archetypal impulse to fulfill a purpose that has to do with the design of the creation itself.
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Parallel Paths to Personal GrowthThe Search for Something Beyond
By EUGENE X. PERTICONE
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Eugene X. Perticone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIntroductory Comments
This book has, in many ways, been a more challenging attempt than any other writing task that I have taken on over the years. There are two reasons why this is so. The first is that what I have to say is likely to be considered by some, especially my colleagues, to include a bit of inappropriate science bashing. I will assure you right now that this has not been my aim. It is indeed so, however, that I will be sharing my personal views of what seem to be significant drawbacks to an exclusively empirical approach to knowledge. This is not to deny the incredible advances that have been achieved in what we know about the natural world and the cosmos at large through utilization of the scientific method. The attainments of science, particularly in recent years, have been remarkable, and those achievements and their applications in every branch of human endeavor are there for everyone to see and to profit from. Nevertheless, it has become clear to me that science's tools are not the best fit for every focus of inquiry, particularly those areas that are considered spiritual or metaphysical in nature.
The second reason that I have felt challenged by offering this little book is that it was my decision to include several episodes from my personal life in order to illustrate how subjective experience, especially intuition and unanticipated shifts in consciousness, may influence one's views about the world and the meaning one gives it. By making use of several true-life anecdotes or vignettes, I hope to show how a very ordinary person may arrive at new perceptions of the things that are felt to be very important and relevant. And while anyone is free to argue with the personal opinions that are suggested or how valid they might be, it will be difficult for anyone to challenge the facts of the experiences themselves and how those experiences influenced the way one thinks about the world and deal with it.
Furthermore, I am quite sure that the things I personally have gone through in my inner travels of thought and feeling are at least comparable, and probably very similar, to what many others have experienced and struggled to understand. I make this latter statement because, in my career as a psychologist and teacher, I have worked intimately with my fellow human beings—males and females, young and old—for many decades. During this time, many individuals' personal histories were shared with me—enough to confirm that their uncertainties and need to know more about life's meaning have closely mirrored mine.
Since early childhood, I have been a prolific reader who delighted in learning about the natural sciences, modern and early history, the arts, and more. Knowledge of all sorts was fascinating to me, and I acquired a lot of it from books and occasionally from my schoolteachers. But gradually, it became clear that I also could be my own source of knowledge, the knowledge being that which occasionally comes unbidden from within. And although it initially was difficult to accept as valid the subjective insights that I experienced, I quickly discovered that they were extremely important and should be trusted.
As a result of such intuitive episodes, my view of the world and my notions about what life is all about have changed markedly over time. In particular, many troublesome ideas about what we are and what is real came into my awareness, and these caused both wonder and wide-eyed astonishment the more I considered them. It was as if I was being prompted to wake up, to realize that everything I thought I knew was nothing more than a distorted and incomplete picture of the things that existed. I also recognized how odd it was that existence, an observable fact, is so routinely taken for granted and that, while each of us expresses it in our own fashion, we seldom, if ever, acknowledge or even seem to recognize the magnitude of the miracle that existence represents. But through intuitive glimpses, I began to sense a grand significance in the phenomenon of being—my own as well as that of everything around me—and I felt compelled to understand that circumstance more deeply. I wanted answers.
Obviously our reactions to things that exist result from our attraction to them, the repugnance we feel toward them, or our indifference concerning them. My questions, however, were not primarily about why we might hold such attitudes but about how to explain existence itself. For instance, does existence, which we commonly refer to as presence (in the case of inanimate objects) and life (when alluding to animate or living forms), simply boil down to a bunch of capricious actions and reactions of random vibrating particles, some of which eventually have become organized into complex arrangements of matter that interact with one another? Were the very first things to occur in nature the result of a chance event or incident, or has the occurrence of each natural object, form, or living entity ultimately been caused by some intentional action? If the latter is the case, is the purpose a benevolent one? Could existence follow from some mysterious pull, perhaps emanating from a teleological influence that is yet to be identified? And finally, do such questions matter at all? There is little likelihood that queries such as I have listed can ever be answered correctly in a mortal lifetime. And even if one or more of them actually were to be answered correctly and completely, could we know that we actually were dealing with an ultimate "truth"? I doubt it. But the search for the elusive answers nevertheless continues.
Certainly, many great scientists and philosophers have made their careers and their marks in history by pursuing such issues. This book I am offering you, however, is not for them. It is for the ordinary woman or man who, like myself, leads a more or less conventional life—goes to school, earns a living, toils, plays, thinks, wonders, and asks questions—this latter sometimes in an unsophisticated, although sincere, manner.
I am firm in my conviction that the questions posed above are highly relevant to every individual's personal growth, a term yet to be defined and its nature still to be discussed. In my view, personal growth must involve an ongoing interest in these questions. It will demand sincere reflection on the issue of existence itself. While I admit the expectation that answers will remain elusive, the impulse to discover fundamental reality does not subside easily. Nonetheless, the effort to approximate the "truth" as sincerely as possible in the meanwhile serves as a somewhat satisfying token that personal growth is inching forward.
Although people may pose their questions in a variety of ways, sooner or later most will, at some level, wonder about who they really are, why they are here, what their existence signifies, and how they should conduct their lives. You yourself probably have wrestled directly with such issues, but sometimes you might have done so without awareness that they were being expressed in the form of various developmental conflicts, emotional crises, or significant life choices that you were encountering. Humans, either as individuals or as members of organized social groups, have a long history of seeking answers to existential riddles. It seems that the need to know is built into us.
It should be obvious by now that this book touches on specific issues that are pertinent to our very being. And whether or not we recognize them for what they are, the questions raised above will continue to be relevant to our lives, to how we live, and what will become of us. Therefore, they ultimately should be of personal and practical concern for everyone.
In what follows, I will be sharing one person's search for meaning—my own—and the conclusions that I have reached, at least tentatively, that can serve as a guide for living wisely and well. If you are open, you also may consider them of value. Perhaps they can serve as a guide in your own search for meaning. The principles and possibilities that are suggested will, I believe, be of interest to you. However, it inevitably is the practical use of any conclusions that are reached about the meaning of existence that will prove to be of most value, so it is their utility I will strive to demonstrate. A later chapter will give you the opportunity to assess your own understanding of the concepts presented and encourage you to experiment with the principles described.
Chapter TwoThe Search for Something Beyond
Although we may have never met, there is no doubt in my mind that you, the person who is taking the time to read these words, and I, the person who is writing them, are very much alike. But I suspect that if we actually were to meet face to face and chat a while, you might disagree with this appraisal. For example, the irises of my eyes are quite brown, but yours may be a limpid blue. I tend to like the country style of living, and your preference could be for a faster-paced urban lifestyle. My gender is male while yours might be female. And I am of one race, and you may be of another. But although you may think that attributes such as these really do signify differences between us, and from a casual point of view I concede that they seem to, they are not essential differences. I am confident, in fact, that they are irrelevant to the most significant scheme of things and so are not worth dwelling on, at least with respect to what this book is all about. Indeed, I think it quite safe to say that we tend to pay far too much attention to the ways in which we appear to differ from one another and not nearly enough to the most central aspect of our being that makes us very similar. I also would like to suggest that our fundamental similarity is of the utmost importance for an adequate understanding of ourselves and what our place and purpose in the universe actually might be. The "understanding" that I am alluding to refers to an awareness of a plan or purpose of existence that extends well beyond what we usually think of. Or if we do concern ourselves with the matter, our comprehension is very shortsighted, ritualized, and likely to be very biased and quite unhelpful.
That we are very much alike is revealed first and foremost in the fact that we are created human beings. Our presence on this planet seems to be but one aspect of a design that I believe is not capricious but intentional, one in which we all can, and probably ought to, play a meaningful part. Interestingly, many humans behave as if there is no intelligent plan even when they do subscribe at some level to a pedantic teaching or philosophy that presumes to explain what the plan is and what they are supposed to do about it. Paradoxically, an equivalent but opposite pattern can be seen in those who insist that such a plan does not exist. In moments of extreme need or peril, for instance, these individuals often find themselves turning to, and seeking solace from, the very plan that they strenuously reject as nonexistent—a pattern that seems to be very telling.
For many of us, the nagging desire for clarity in such issues sooner or later leads to a confrontation with ourselves over the confusion and uncertainty that underlie the appearance of "truth" (in any direction) that we have been subscribing to for no other reason than having learned from others to do so. But when we admit our confusion and face it honestly, many of us will intuit that there is something more, that is, something beyond our longstanding and limited conceptions of reality. We then feel a strong urge to understand what the "something beyond" is all about.
Questions about the "something beyond" have bothered me for as long as I can remember. When I was six years old, for example, I once expressed aloud my simmering befuddlement over what I had been told by my elders in response to questions about how we and the world came into being. "Okay," I finally proclaimed to a group of my playmates who were with me at the time, "so God made the world." I scratched my head after this pronouncement because, although I could accept the notion of a supernatural Creator, I was perplexed by the thought that logically followed. "But who made God?" I looked earnestly at the faces of my little companions as I posed the question to them but received no answers from them other than a couple of indifferent shrugs. That was many years ago, but despite three academic degrees and a great deal of study, reading, and deliberation since then, the question has persisted. However, it now takes the form: "What was there, if anything, in the instant before the first creation?" That question, of course, inevitably has led to still another: "Was the first creation intended to serve a purpose?"
Considering the many conflicting thoughts and frustrations that are bound to confront any person who seriously poses such questions, you may wonder why anyone would bother with them at all. My personal response is that I can't help it. The questions continue to be presented to me and simply won't let me alone. I once thought this was exclusively my peculiarity, but I eventually learned that it is, in one way or another, common to most of the thinking people that I have encountered, both personally and professionally, over the years.
As members of our species, we are composites of biological, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects. I trust that most of us will accept without dissension the first three categories just mentioned. The inclusion of a concept such as "spiritual aspects," however, is likely to motivate some to prepare for battle over what they presume to be fantasy as opposed to what they insist is fact. So let me state at the onset that I am not about to preach religion or encourage adoption of any ism. My intention is simply to explore with you the persistent notion existing in the consciousness of so many of us that there is the likelihood of a "something beyond" our conditioned conception of the phenomenal world and its existence. I also wish to foster awareness of the concomitant conclusion, easily garnered from a study of history, that humans have never been free of the desire to comprehend and to relate to what the "something beyond" is all about. I intend to discuss these matters from the standpoint of personal and commonplace human experience rather than by citing either what purport to be validated conclusions alleged to be scientifically derived or by simply reiterating the long-held tenets and beliefs of dogmas favored by the world's major religions and schools of philosophy.
To accomplish my purpose, I intend to describe some of my own struggles and encounters when grappling with the concept of the "something beyond." I also will refer to the thoughts of others who have not relied exclusively on either the findings of empirical science or what dutifully was been fed to them by family or the larger culture concerning the profound mysteries of existence but, like me, have trusted intuition, feeling, and personal experience in their considerations.
If you wonder what all these cosmic and spiritual innuendos have to do with personal growth, the subject of this book, let me explain. Personal growth is not just about your development or mine. Although it typically is thought of as a desirable progression of some sort that applies to a specific individual, it perhaps is better considered as the manifestation of a universal drive that is an essential aspect of the "something beyond" or the "plan" alluded to earlier. Personal growth, in other words, is not simply the forward movement of one individual in isolation from everyone and everything else that exists. It is the expression of an archetypal impulse to fulfill a purpose that has to do with the design of the creation itself.
Chapter ThreeA Better Way of Being
I am a practicing psychologist now. Before that, I was a college professor, and earlier than that, a public school teacher. Much of my career, therefore, has been devoted to facilitating learning or providing psychological assistance for people in need. In the early years, I was reasonably satisfied with the results of my work to accomplish either of these purposes. And although my efforts to help people acquire knowledge and skills or attain improved levels of adjustment usually were reasonably successful, I soon began to question the apparent reasons why people's learning and improved adjustment were—or sometime were not—actually taking place.
In psychological counseling, for instance, I found that the growth achieved by clients (operationally defined as the relinquishment of symptoms or the attainment of specific personal goals) often turned out to be only partially related to their originally stated objectives and concerns. Often, their growth was connected also to other aims that had not been recognized or at least not acknowledged by them before. In clinical practice, for instance, a person might claim a desire to maintain a marriage to an abusive or otherwise unsuitable spouse out of affection or for religious reasons, when he or she actually fears being alone and assuming responsibility for making life decisions independently. Furthermore, a conclusion suggested by follow-up study of individual psychotherapy cases was that the goal a client wanted help to achieve did not necessarily result in sufficient or lasting satisfaction, even when the effort to reach it had been successful. Goal attainment itself, in other words, often appeared to be insufficient to produce enduring happiness or fulfillment. Still another realization that seemed of particular importance to me was that the clients who, over time, maintained improvements they had achieved through counseling or psychotherapy were those who had changed their outlook on life rather than simply obtaining what they wanted or ridding themselves of what they wished to be free of. This attitudinal factor, I eventually came to realize, is of pivotal importance when it comes to personal growth in the broader sense of that term, and it is directly related to the conclusions mentioned above.
Excerpted from Parallel Paths to Personal Growth by EUGENE X. PERTICONE Copyright © 2012 by Eugene X. Perticone. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsList of Figures....................vii
1. Introductory Comments....................1
2. The Search for Something Beyond....................6
3. A Better Way of Being....................10
4. The Experience of Intuitive Moments....................19
5. What Is Personal Growth?....................48
6. The Parallel Paths....................57
7. Integrating the Two Paths....................65
8. More about the Parallel Paths....................74
9. The Natural and the Spiritual....................84
10. Why Does Anything Exist?....................93
11. The Significance of Uses....................102
12. Sacred Service....................110
13. Considering What You Know....................119
14. The Challenge of Personal Growth....................133
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This fascinating book describes two potentially interconnected and parallel paths to personal growth: the personal path (“doing”) and the impersonal path (“being”). Although both paths can be beneficial, the personal path tends to promote exclusiveness and self-enhancement whereas the impersonal path promotes inclusiveness and a concern for others. The author describes how these two paths can be integrated to maximize personal transformation and self-growth. A particularly interesting concept presented by the author is “correspondence,” which was first described by the 18th century scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg and later echoed in the writings of the celebrated American essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. The author also addresses a number of important and related topics, including the relationship between science and spirituality, the importance of intuitive moments and insights, and ultimately the purpose of creation itself. At 140 pages in length, this highly entertaining book can be read quickly and easily, although the reader should allow the necessary time for reflection and contemplation of the ideas presented in it. In my estimation, such an investment is well worth it. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in self-actualization, spirituality, and personal growth. If you like this book, I would also strongly recommend “The Art of Being Better,” another book by the same author that may serve as a companion volume to this one.