Spiritual bypassing—the use of spiritual beliefs to avoid dealing with painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs—is so pervasive that it goes largely unnoticed. The spiritual ideals of any tradition, whether Christian commandments or Buddhist precepts, can provide easy justification for practitioners to duck uncomfortable feelings in favor of more seemingly enlightened activity. When split off from fundamental psychological needs, such actions often do much more harm than good.
While other authors have touched on the subject, this is the first book fully devoted to spiritual bypassing. In the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa’s landmark Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, Spiritual Bypassing provides an in-depth look at the unresolved or ignored psychological issues often masked as spirituality, including self-judgment, excessive niceness, and emotional dissociation. A longtime psychotherapist with an engaging writing style, Masters furthers the body of psychological insight into how we use (and abuse) religion in often unconscious ways. This book will hold particular appeal for those who grew up with an unstructured new-age spirituality now looking for a more mature spiritual practice, and for anyone seeking increased self-awareness and a more robust relationship with themselves and others.
"This is a wonderfully significant and important book, and is highly recommended. Its contents are truly mandatory for this day and age."
—Ken Wilber, author of The Integral Vision
"This timely and penetrating analysis of spirituality’s shadow provides a much-needed counterpoint for those who tend to get blinded by its light."
—Stephen Batchelor, author of Buddhism without Beliefs
"There is much wisdom and good information in this book. Robert joins a growing number of wise teachers who understand that the personal and the universal must be combined to bring true and genuine spiritual awakening."
—Jack Kornfield, author of A Path With Heart and After the Ecstasy, the Laundry
"Traversing the muddy waters of contemporary spirituality requires a willingness to meet its seen and unseen challenges with ruthless self-honesty and keen discernment. Robert addresses 'the many faces of spiritual bypassing' with intellectual rigor, hard-earned insight, and emotional intelligence. It is a lucid, well-written, and practical guide for both new and seasoned practitioners on the spiritual path."
—Mariana Caplan, PhD, author of Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path and Halfway Up the Mountain: the Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment
"Robert Masters has given us a great gift—a tremendously useful guide to examining our tendencies to spiritual bypassing, clearly the most comprehensive and accessible treatment available on this crucial topic. His work is a great contribution to the ongoing integration of psychotherapy and spiritual practice, and to our understanding of the meaning of spiritual maturity."
—Donald Rothberg, PhD, author of The Engaged Spiritual Life
"In Spiritual Bypassing, Robert Masters eloquently reminds us of something we have unknowingly misplaced on our spiritual journeys: Mother Earth. In our efforts to bypass our earthly challenges, we have disconnected from the Ground of our very being, seeking our wholeness on a pogo stick to the stars. In poignant and clarifying language, Robert calls us back home, confronting us with our avoidance, inviting us to find our spirituality in the heart/depths of our humanness. In an era where detachment models for spirituality are becoming dangerously prevalent, his inclusive message is of profound importance. It may not appeal to the part of us that wants the path to be easy, but it will speak loudly to the part of us that longs for the truth. I recommend it wholeheartedly."
—Jeff Brown, author of Soulshaping
"In Spiritual Bypassing, Robert Augustus Masters offers a wake-up call—more of a shout—to those of us who have unwittingly fallen prey to all manner of promising and seductive antidotes to our pain and suffering in the form of detached spiritual teachings and New Age magical thinking. The book is a sobering and powerful reminder that our present embodiment, in all its flawed, messy humanness, cannot be conveniently sidestepped, and so invites us inward to a face-to-face encounter and embrace with the raw truth of who we really are. Masters’ unique and at times disarming prose style blends a poetic sensibility with a surprising stark clarity that points us to 'What Really Matters.'"
—Eliezer Sobel, author of The 99th Monkey: A Spiritual Journalist’s Misadventures with Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics, and Other Consciousness-Raising Experiments
"There is much hard-won wisdom in this work. Spiritual Bypassing is a detailed, point-by-point description of how so-called spirituality can be used by some to actually avoid individuation, adulthood, and the daimonic. When Carl Jung noted that “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering,” he hinted that, especially for the Western psyche, spiritual practice itself can be just such a sneaky neurosis. This insightful, firm, confrontive yet compassionate book promotes and encourages the complementary marriage of spiritual practice and psychotherapy, recognizing that they are—and, at best, have always been—basically two integrally related sides of the same existential coin: The most profound psychotherapy is essentially spiritual; and the deepest spiritual quest includes some depth psychology. Neither approach can be excluded on the unpredictable path toward selfhood. But even the powerful fusion of spirituality and psychotherapy cannot offer transcendent perfection. Selfhood or spiritual enlightenment is never about escaping or distorting inner or outer reality to serve our egos, but requires lovingly accepting and embracing reality as it is and on its own terms."
—Stephen Diamond, PhD, author of Anger, Madness, and the Daimonic: The Psychological Genesis of Violence, Evil, and Creativity
"Uncompromising and truth-telling, this book is an antidote to spiritual obesity. What emerges is the call to psychological clarity as essential to the mature spiritual life. Here is soul-fuel for those who would enter the road less traveled—the deeply examined life as part of spiritual practice."
—Jean Houston, PhD, author of A Mythic Life
"The escape act and forms of denial and self-delusion that Robert Masters diagnoses as 'spiritual bypassing' have been with us for millennia — perhaps since our early ancestors first discovered psycho-spiritual experiences that seemed to relieve the pressures of living and dying. But the syndrome has become endemic in our frothy age of virtual everything — so we are all blessed by the appearance of this diamond of a book. Here a priest of our true wellness has distilled the blood, sweat, and tears of his decades of fervent triage work in trenches of bypassing into essences of truly healing wisdom. Every spiritual practitioner would do well to study Spiritual Bypassing again and again. So would every one of us who presume to teach any spirituality at all. Thankfully, it's as much compassionate antidote as prophetic critique. May it be put to grateful use as long as the illness it treats continues to ravage human bodies, souls, and lives."
—Saniel Bonder, founder, Waking Down in Mutuality, and author of Healing the Spirit/Matter Split and Waking Down
“Spiritual Bypassing casts a critical eye on our deeply entrenched misuse of spirituality… Masters provides a framework for how to deal with and integrate ‘negative’ emotions such as anger, fear, hate and judgment into a more authentic way of living. While most self-help books these days seem to simply tell you to ‘just be more positive,’ ‘avoid negativity’ or ‘have more compassion,’ Masters suggests a method where we can simultaneously choose to be compassionate while also still choosing to acknowledge our heartfelt anger—without expressing it with excessive aggression or repressing it through denial or other practices that might numb our real feelings... Spiritual Bypassing is a must read for anyone who is looking for a more integrated spirituality, authentic relationship with themselves and others, and practical methods for dealing with unresolved wounds.”
—Spiritual Media Blog
“In my opinion, [Spiritual Bypassing] will become as important as Chogyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism… Masters seems to be, based on his writings, one of the most important minds working in integral psychotherapy.”
—Integral Options Café
“Spiritual Bypassing is an exceptionally well-written book that is endorsed by big-time authors such as, Jack Kornfield, Jean Houston, and Ken Wilber. Let's support (and challenge) ourselves and others who can no longer see for themselves when they are blinded by the light.”
—New Consciousness Review