Tools of the Spirit: Pathways to the Realization of Universal Innocence
by Robert Dilts and Robert McDonald
Like so many books in the field of NLP, this one is written as the transcript of a workshop. Like several other books in this format, much could possibly have been gained by changing at least some of this transcript into simpler prose form. One rather negative review on amazon.com suggests that the two authors were too lazy to rewrite the transcript and also criticizes them for writing a book on spirituality when neither have any formal spiritual training.
Reading the negative review before reading the book definitely framed the book in the wrong light for me, right from the beginning, and I didn’t enjoy the first few chapters very much which include many details that are more relevant to the participants present at the workshop than the reader who didn’t attend. The use of the song, the Hokey Pokey, was also presumably more effective in the workshop than it appears on the written page!
In Chapter 2, Dilts introduces his Logical Levels model which will be familiar to most people involved in NLP (Environment, Behavior, Capabilities, Beliefs and Values, Identity, and Spirit). I have found this model to be extremely useful in my work with clients and for helping myself to get different perspectives on an issue. For the purposes of this book with its focus on Spirituality, the top level is the most interesting as it gives a rough definition of spirituality as defined by the authors:
Spiritual experiences relate to our perception of being part of a larger system that reaches beyond ourselves as individuals to our family, community, and global systems. Answer to the question who/what else?
This is a much more general definition of spirituality than might be found elsewhere. For example, the World English Dictionary gives the perhaps more traditional meaning of:
the state or quality of being dedicated to God, religion, or spiritual things or values, esp as contrasted with material or temporal ones
However, as is noted on Wikipedia, spirituality has now become much more widely used in secular contexts. Keeping this is mind allows us to push away the criticisms from the Amazon reviewer and to allow the book to present spirituality through its own map of the world, rather than imposing an outside one.
Before I move on from criticisms altogether, however, on page 22 of the book, the Logical Levels are labelled as “Neuro-Logical” Levels and it is claimed that “these various levels of our subjective experience are embodied in the form of neurological circuits. Each level mobilizes successively deeper and broader commitment of neurological ‘circuitry.’ For example, Environment is postulated to employ the peripheral nervous system, and Behaviors are postulated to employ the motor system. Identity is tied to the Immune system and endocrine system. This tying of bodily functions to the levels does not seem justifiable. Our everyday behaviours certainly do engage the immune system in various ways. It is an interesting set of ideas, but one that could perhaps have been researched more deeply and presented in a different book. While not being central at all to the theme of Tools of the Spirit, it does leave the book open to criticism by writers such as Andy Bradbury on his website and John Grinder in Whispering in the Wind.
Later in chapter 2, the Logical Levels are used for the basis of a process called Co-Alignment. This is a powerful process of sharing with another person at all of the levels. For example, at the Behavior level, the two people ask each other the question: “What do I want to do when I am in that time and space (shared enviroment)” and eventually at the Spirit level it leads to the question “What is the larger vision and purpose I am pursuing or representing?” Then, the two people explore the ways in which the two visions fit together and taking the sharing vision, they walk back down the levels all the way to Environment. I have carried out this process and found it to be very rewarding and can recommend it for two people in a relationship or even for a company (where people can be encouraged to be open-minded for a little while at least!).
Chapter 4 introduces the Presence of Eternity process. This uses the concept of timelines to become present in the Now with another person, and then to extend that sense of time into eternity. It is certainly a useful exercise. The gazing into the other’s eyes and the holding of hands may put off some people, and the book should perhaps have mentioned that it is also a valuable exercise to do alone.
Chapter 5 uses the perceptual positions of NLP in the Spiritual Healing Process. I found Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 much more interesting, where Dilts and MacDonald introduce the idea of ‘Shadow’ and in particular I liked Chapter 7 where they explain the Releasing Enmeshment with the Shadow process. In essence, it assumes that we are enmeshed with a shadow (e.g. anger, fear etc.) and that by visualizing the nature of that enmeshment, we can deal with it. For example, the shadow could be represented as a dragon with its teeth in our neck. In a slightly complicated process, the dragon is replaced by a more spiritually developed version of ourselves. Although this other version of ourselves starts out enmeshed to us in the same way (with sharp teeth!), these quickly change into a more positive connection. Rather than killing the poor dragon, he is given his own spiritually developed self and starts out with his teeth in that other self. In the same way, those teeth change into a more positive connection. If the process sounds a little crazy, it is … and it also produces powerful change at an unconscious level. Metaphors are very powerful things, indeed.
One thing that I liked in the book was the repeated suggestion that shadows are simply the absence of light – they only exist because light casts a shadow. And shadows can never completely disappear because the bigger the light, the larger the shadow it will throw.
Chapter 8 explains the Self-Parenting process which is probably most useful for people who have issues with one or both of their parents. A parent (or an archetype of a parent) is visualized in each hand. Each has a gift and the other parent is asked to recognize the value of the other’s gift. While expressing gratitude and forgiveness, these gifts are then synthesized and integrated back into the body. I enjoyed this process, and think that some people could find it extremely useful in dealing with parents from whom they feel alienated or distant.
Chapter 10 was my favourite chapter. The authors introduce the extremely versatile tool from Generative NLP and Dilts’ Unified Field Theory. I’ve shown the basic idea in the table below:
A grid of nine squares is used to represent time (past, present, and future on the vertical axis) and NLP perceptual positions (1st, 2nd, and 3rd on the horizontal axis). The center square on the grid represents 1st position present (looking out of your own eyes at the present moment). From this position, you step into all the other squares bringing a growing feeling of spiritual awareness, and from the timeframe and perceptual position of each square, you send a message to the you in the center. Eventually, you end up with 8 messages supporting you from different directions. Like most of the other processes in the book, it sounds crazy, but it works – and this one works very well indeed.
The book concludes with a sampling of readings and poems, all of which are enjoyable. I would recommend this book for people already familiar with NLP who want to extend the tools of NLP into the area of spiritual development.