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Conscious spiritual bypassing

What´s wrong with "spiritual bypassing"? I think it got a really bad rap. For no good reason. It think it has become an exxagerated concern, just like "the dark night of the soul".

I assume that everyone knows what spiritual bypassing is: using meditation/spirituality as a tool to avoid dealing with one´s "shadows", to avoid emotion, trauma etc.

Marc Aixala in "Psychedelic Integration" describes it like this:

We might try to avoid the suffering derived from living in the world through pseudo-spirituality. We may nurture the tendency to minimize our circumstantial suffering by alluding to spiritual ideas such as transcendence, the unreality and impermanence of all things, the existence of a greater plan or a cosmic game of which we are all part, or the supposed disidentification from the ego and what is a clearly inadequate detachment from our experience. Our spiritual practice and experiences can thus turn into an escape route from reality (Aixala, 2021)

In short: using the wrong tool to deal with life´s difficulties.

It is trying to "wake up" where "growing up" and "cleaning up" may still be required required (Ken Wilber). Ken Wilber, in his idea of the "4th turning of the dharma wheel", had suggested that meditation is great to "wake up", but not to "grow up". The difference: waking up, as the simple act of "awareness becoming aware of itself", does not imply having dealt with trauma, neurosis etc. Those old Tibetans simply didn't know what we know today. Meditation is not therapy. And both need to be combined.

Btw the therapist Douglas Tataryn added "looking around" to include the social dimension.

Back to spiritual bypassing :

Just don´t do it

First, as Michael Taft humorously sais, his recommendation for people who express a fear of spiritual bypassing through meditation is

"Just don´t do it" (Taft 2021)

He compares spiritual bypassing to taking a beautiful pen as a potential eye-removing device (after all, it could be used for that purpose, but it shouldn´t). End of story!

So does Sam Harris in one of his "Daily Meditations" of the Waking Up app:

And to be clear, this is not a way of distancing yourself from the emotion. In fact, it is a willingness to feel it, even more intensely to fully experience. It is that willingness to give it all of your attention that cuts through it. Because your thoughts in that moment are part of an effort to no longer feel. What in fact is arising, whether it's anger or sadness, or fear, simply be willing to burn up with whatever emotion is appearing.

Just do it! But consciously

Secondly, why not occasionally spiritually bypass? There is no good reason to dabble all one´s life in growing up, or "healing".

There can be very good reason to simply ignore stuff by learning to distance oneself from it. At least for some time.

  • One can take oneself far too seriously.

  • One can become too oblivious about the incomparable amount of suffering that has gone on in history, compared to one's own suffering

  • One can be overly attached to solving psychological issues.

  • One can by hyper-focused on one´s own development history, the errors one´s parents made etc.

So: do a little bit of spiritual bypassing, now and then.

Marc Aixala (2021) had the same idea in the context of spiritual bypassing through psychedelic experiences.

This phenomenon can also have positive aspects in some situations. People who are going through difficult moments of life, such as painful loss, or people whose lives have been filled with traumatic events and suffering, may experience states of freedom, joy, and happiness or encounter spiritual dimensions through their psychedelic experiences. To an outside observer, the enjoyment of these states may seem like an attempt to avoid confronting painful and unprocessed unconscious material. And the outside observer may very well be correct. However, this period of spiritual bypass can also be understood as a necessary step in the journey towards deeper levels of the psyche.

These states of bypass and inflation can be an oxygen tank for someone in a vulnerable state. Therefore, a spiritual bypass should not be immediately confronted without considering the situation of the person as a whole. Suppose someone is immersed in a therapeutic process or on a path of personal development and has the support of a skilled therapist or an understanding teacher. In that case, they will eventually be able to transcend those experiences of immature spirituality, understanding them as important pieces of their subsequent development.


Marc Aixala (2021), "Psychedelic Integration"

Aranowich, A. (n.d.). Healing from Healing. Healing From Healing. A somewhat shortlived website, with a few interesting contributions

Harris, S. (2022). Waking Up - A New Operating System for Your Mind.

Taft, M. W. (2021, May 17). Spiritual Bypassing and the Spiritual Friend. Deconstructing Yourself. Retrieved 9 September 2022, from


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