Soaring into the Heavens

Explore the concept of spiritual bypassing, its impact on relationships, and integrating upperworld spiritual experiences into everyday life.
Concept of spiritual bypassing. Photograph of a person standing on the summit of a peak with their hands in the air. There is a soft pastel sunrise background behind them and butterflies all around them flying up into the sky.
Author: Tara Rae Behr
By Tara Rae Behr
June 17, 2024(Updated: June 26, 2024)

Upperworld, Middleworld, Underworld

You may have heard of the concept of spiritual bypassing or the flight to transcendence before. These phrases describe the tendency in humans to leave their bodies, relationships, or incarnate life. They do so in favor of the minds of the celestials and the upperworld. 

In Nature and the Human Soul, Bill Plotkin describes three worlds of consciousness: the upperworld, the middleworld, and the underworld. The human species emphasizes enlightenment, nondual consciousness, heaven, the afterlife, and transcendence. We tend to ignore both the underworld of soul and the middleworld of our sacred ordinary lives. Our human species is highly undeveloped in the spiritual dimension inherent in our middleworld lives and soul’s underworld. 

“When communities or people deeply engage in spiritual bypassing, they cannot hold space for people in a deep, abiding, trustworthy way.”

—Tara Rae Behr

We have a difficult time bringing upperworld truths of love and compassion into incarnate form in the middleworld interpersonal field between us. We as a culture often fail to see the utter uniqueness of every individual being. The underworld of soul cultivates this understanding. However, many of us run to upperworld spirituality. This tendency merely stems from the saturation of violence and abuse in our families in the middleworld. And our general culture views the underworld as hell and something to be feared. Instead, we could see it as a place to discover our unique, authentic soul. 

Spiritual Platitudes and the Bypass of Interpersonal Harm

In my own experience, I am open-hearted in states of unity or non-dual consciousness. This openness allows me to see the true hearts of the people who have harmed me and the abuses that happened to them. I often open my being to great forgiveness of myself and others. I am also able to see that we are all one living organism. Indeed, this spiritual perspective has a deep truth to it. However, if we ignore that we live in incarnate form—in the body, in our soul—we may not develop a robust relational ethic for how to live here and now in the space between us. And rather than possessing a deep knowledge of precision and particularity—cultivated in the world of soul—we may live in vague cliches, platitudes, and categories. 

We may bypass negative emotions of hatred, anger, disgust, or fear. These are actually very intelligent responses to the interpersonal violence that happened to us as children or continues to occur in our lives. Spiritual gurus and predators can easily prey upon us. We give over our trust to people, institutions, or organizations. Yet, these entities do not have the capacity to honor our full humanity. 

I have unfortunately watched many friends, and myself at times, be swallowed whole by New Age psychedelic communities. They lose any sense of self, in a very similar way to how I saw people lose themselves in the Evangelical Church as a kid. 

What Are Common Traits of the Concept of Spiritual Bypassing:

Here are some signs that the Spiritual Bypassing (The Flight to Transcendence) may be afoot in yourself or others:

  1. Being unwilling to have interpersonal conversations about ruptures in the relational field between people or in organizations. 
  2. Being dismissive of reality or pretending everything is fine when actually dealing with grief, anger, mourning, or lament. These are particularly inherent in life’s tragedies and losses of death, divorce, physical trauma, or mental illness, and also include stress, pain, or loss. 
  3. Asking others to unquestioningly trust in “God’s plan (In the Evangelical Church)” or to “Trust the Medicine (In New Age Psychedelic Communities).”
  4. Grandiose salvific stories that this spirituality, dimension, meditation practice, prayer, etc., will save the world. 
  5. Purposefully avoiding or evading the shadows of a community. 
  6. Being overly compassionate in the face of abuse. 
  7. Being overly involved in traveling to psychic and spiritual dimensions. This involvement is specifically without a return to the field of everyday ordinary life or the life of soul. We must ground the upperworld spiritual dimensions into our sacred ordinary life to live ethically and sustainably within our human and more-than-human communities
  8. Moving from relationship to relationship without any accountability for harmful actions. 
  9. Trying to proselytize others into one’s spiritual perspective and denying the dignity of difference inherent within the human species for a multiplicity of paths of spirituality.
  10. Self-righteousness about one’s spiritual path.

Essential Resources for Spiritual and Psychedelic Exploration:

Trust Yourself if You Sense There Is Spiritual Bypassing Happening in Your Community

If you are in any kind of psychedelic New Age community or other kind of spiritual organization, you may see any of these attributes present. When communities or people deeply engage in spiritual bypassing, they cannot hold space for people in a deep, abiding, trustworthy way. Many cults form through spiritual bypassing. No one is held accountable for the interpersonal violence that is happening. This lack of accountability is because most everyone is dissociating and not present in the relational dynamics taking place between people. 

Spiritual bypassing also feeds on and diminishes the uniqueness of individual souls, causing them to become a mass of “sameness.” If a community does not support each being’s individuating process, it is participating in a form of spiritual bypassing. The flight to transcendence and unity overshadows the dignity of difference. It is, thus, soulless. 

I trust this article can be a refuge for you and give you language to avoid the trap of the concept of spiritual bypassing. 

Follow your Curiosity

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The content provided is for educational and informational purposes only and should be a substitute for medical or other professional advice. Articles are based on personal opinions, research, and experiences of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Psychedelic Support.

Published by:
Author: Tara Rae Behr
Tara Rae Behr
Tara Rae Behr is a psychotherapist, poet, singer-songwriter, and earth-tender. Her work is informed by the sacred feminine, interpersonal phenomenology, eco-centric culture, love and Christian mysticism. Her own experience unwinding developmental trauma, sexual assault, and healing from a ten-year eating disorder with Canadian psychotherapist Bruce Sanguin, has been instrumental in how she works as a counselor. You can learn more about her at tararaebehr.com.

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