Many Considerations of Value in Psychology

Randal G. Tonks
Department of Psychology
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C.
tonks@sfu.ca

This winter marks the presentation of a briefer issue which loosely circles around issues of value in psychology. While the original conception of this issue was to focus on more literary accounts of psychology, we have only one that does so with three others that represent alternative cosmologies and critical overviews. In spite of the fact that this issue provides fewer leaves to be read, it is by no means any more barren and withered that previous ones.

As with the push behind getting other issues out, this one became a little too much to get out on time. Having family commitments and winter blizzards (true Canadian winter) taking my interests away, I was finally able to organise this collection of articles for our recent issue. Last August, under typical Montreal summer conditions I had the good fortune to present some ideas on the issue of unity and diversity in the psychology and culture of Canada. Keeping hold of my primary concern over identity, I examined issues of identity surrounding several contexts in which crises of unity and diversity abound. In resolution of these issues I proposed that we continue to engage in dialogue, real and sincere over issues of identity and value in the practice of psychology in Canada. The present collection of articles also address similar concerns where the authors have taken it upon themselves to engage in critical inquiry over such concerns.

Beginning with Eric Pettifor's account of Buddhist Psychology, we return to themes of ethics and the four noble truths, concentration and mindfulness. In earlier issues of Psybernetika we had Sharon Belfer's account of The Curative Value of Egolessness and the Ethical importance of compassion in Buddhism which is compatible with Eric's present account which focuses on the comparison with "western" psychology. Providing some history of Buddhism in European thought, Eric presents the 3 treasures of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangra as well as the theory of Kamma (action) and agency. Discussing dualism in the west and "no self" in Buddhism, Eric also presents a brief account of the cross-fertilisation of these ways of thought in the works of William James and others. As such, Eric's account elaborates on the value of insight meditation in drawing from both "western" and "eastern" scholars who discuss the pursuit of nibbana. In the Summer 1995 issue, which focused on Buddhism, Jung and rituals, we also had Linda Reid's comparative exposť on Jungian Archetypes and Tantric deities which is followed by the present account of Jung and the Nazis by Mark Medweth.

Mark's account of the ethical-political circumstances surrounding Carl Gustav Jung's life and works initially provides a more commonly presented perspective on the motivations and moral stance behind Jung's work. This perspective is contrasted by another account of Jung's motivation and actions in the early part of this century. Here Mark presents a well rounded case of Jung's fascination with archetypes, his relationship with Freud, his portrayal of Jewish psychology, and not to mention Jung's own words in defence of his intention and values.

Julian Keenan has also presented an important and interesting critique of The Bell Curve and the moral and political agendas of many of the sources of fact and information that are presented in the recent book.

Taking a different turn, Psybernetika presents Chris Russell's brief account of the Birth of Emotion. Rather than taking an intellectual or academic approach to understanding emotion, Chris presents a short story whereby the reader is taken through the birth of awareness of emotion. While this account may leave the reader hanging, I think it is important to challenge the (usually) passive and constrained thinking of our "paradigmatic" discipline. Chris' evocative account draws emotions from the reader, proving emotion to be a form of communication and understanding itself. Providing glimmerings of spiritual transcendence, or is it madness? or some psychedelic trip over the edge?, this account is fertiliser for the imaginative and the empathic.

Next issue we will return to the hermeneutics of the history of psychology in Canada with the third (and final?) collection of reports taken from our Psychology 308 - History of Modern Psychology course. This issue will report a follow-up and extension from The first collection and the the second one.