Selection from Theistic Psychology: The Science of Immortality (2004)
I first started using the self-witnessing methodology in 1971 while teaching social psychology (see here: www.theisticpsychology.org/leonarticles.html ). Students were able to understand the threefold self in terms of their affective, their cognitive, and their sensorimotor mind or self. Several generations of student reports show that self-witnessing the threefold self is an ordinary skill every normal person has acquired in the course of growing up. Even children are capable of this to some extent. It consists of self-monitoring one's feelings, thoughts, and sensations, i.e., the threefold self. People are able to write down what they are feeling, what they are thinking, and what they are sensing.
There might be a tendency to think that self-witnessing is introspective, subjective, and non-behavioral. Actually self-witnessing is observational, objective, empirical, and behavioral.
The method of self-witnessing is empirical and objective because the individual has the anatomical and functional ability to observe the lower part of the mind with the higher part. Just as we can observe in a mirror how we stand and how we walk, and give an objective report of it, in the same way we can observe from our rational mind what the sensory mind is doing, thinking, sensing. The objective report we give of our self-witnessing is the same objective report independent observers would give if they had access to our feelings, thoughts, and sensations. But since this is not possible here on earth we must rely on self-witnessing for objective data on the mind. And since we observe ourselves as others would observe us, and as we would observe them, self-witnessing is objective, not subjective. The subject matter or content is subjective, or in the mind of one individual, but the observation method is objective.
Self-witnessing yields objective and valid data by sampling of one's feelings, thoughts, and sensations. All other methods available to psychology are indirect and inferential, hence only partially accurate and valid such as personality tests, self-reports, interviews, and videotaping. Self-witnessing is the only method available for gathering objective data on samples of one's feelings, thoughts, and sensations. Several years ago I have introduced self-witnessing as a method that drivers can use to improve their driving habits.
In theistic psychology this self-monitoring methodology of the threefold self is called "spiritual self-witnessing." It is described in the Writings of Swedenborg as "self-examination for regeneration." Self-witnessing becomes "spiritual" when our purpose for doing it is character reformation that is motivated by heavenly preparation (or "regeneration"). In other words, we are trying to unlearn selfish traits and learn altruistic traits so that we may develop a character that can live in the heavenly regions of the spiritual world. This is called a spiritual motive because it has to do with a goal in the spiritual world.
Spiritual self-witnessing is the self-monitoring of one's threefold self in the daily events of life in order to discover objectively when we are feeling selfishly and thinking irrationally.
While it's fairly easy to monitor one's feelings and thoughts, it is more difficult to recognize which ones are selfish and irrational. This kind of critical thinking about oneself must be learned and taught.
Psychology as a science has two research foundations. One is physical measurement or description; the other is verbal responses. Personality theory relies heavily on paper-and-pencil inventories, tests, and self-ratings. If you took away these self-reports by subjects there would be very little left of personality theory and research. In theistic psychology there is a heavy reliance on self-witnessing methodology because no other technique is available when we want to know what feelings, thoughts, and sensations are in the mind. Behavioral psychology does maintain a focus on people's thoughts and feelings and has not favored methods like self-witnessing. Cognitive science has had an interest in thought processes, especially in computers and programming. They use a technique called "think aloud protocols" which are transcripts of audio recordings of an individual engaged in an expert task and speaking the thoughts out loud. This approach has led Herbert Simon to create the first intelligent computer operation -- playing chess, by translating into programming language the thought protocols he obtained from chess players. There is also the technique of "thought sampling" that is done clinical psychology.
Spiritual self-witnessing is specialized in that its purpose is specifically to examine our thoughts and feelings all day long in order to evaluate them within the context of our efforts at character reformation. The term "character reformation" is often associated with correctional systems or religious schools. In other words it applies to a situation where someone is maladaptive and irrational, the focus being on correction or reformation. In theistic psychology character reformation is used because of the recognition that the human race today has evolved a character that is socially and spiritually maladaptive. The scientific revelations in the Writings of Swedenborg present both evidence and a rational account of how this negative development has occurred in the human race. When this is recognized, the focus necessarily becomes restorative and regenerative. Knowing the eternal consequences of a maladaptive character intensifies the motive for providing people with effective psychological techniques to reform or restore the individual's character to a state of integrity and spiritual adaptiveness.
There is nothing 'preachy,' intolerant, or dogmatic about the idea of character reformation as a central focus for theistic psychology. This is a rational and responsible thing to do, assuming one adopts the positive bias towards the scientific revelations in the Writings of Swedenborg. If one remains in the negative bias one retains the impression that "character reformation" is 'preachy' or prescriptive. But it is actually strictly objective, given the actual consequences of arriving in the spiritual world without having reformed one's character. In that new state of life called being a "spirit" living in rational ether the power of thoughts and feelings is far greater than anything we can do in a physical body. An analogy might be the necessity for changing one's thoughts and emotions when going to sleep, if you're having nightmares. The experience can be so awful and scary and disturbing that we gladly apply techniques we know to altering those thoughts and feelings, so the nightmares can go away. In the spiritual world the mind is just as powerful as in dreams.
Living in rational ether as rational minds, our thoughts and feelings instantaneously produce changes in the immediate environment around us. We can turn a beautiful garden into an inhospitable desert in the flick of a thought. We need character integrity and stability to resist all the influences around us that other spirits create. Character integrity is an affective state but it requires an accompanying cognitive operation in order for the affective state to be stable and to last. In the spiritual world this cognitive content is supplied through instruction received by every "novitiate spirit." The capacity to accept this instruction depends on the rationality our mind possesses.
Self-witnessing as a daily practice is a new way of living. Through it, conscious awareness develops of all the things that otherwise would remain sub-conscious, unattended. Without self-witnessing as a consistent activity, how would it be possible to know the content of thoughts and the quality and directionality of feelings? Self-witnessing is different from self-monitoring and self-observation -- two terms used in psychology today. Self-witnessing is more lie "self-examination," which the term used in the Writings.
Self-examination is focused on evaluation by means of "doctrine of life." This expression refers to an individual's principles by which one lives and makes decisions in daily life. The doctrine of life is learned from sacred scripture or instruction based on it. It requires rational understanding of Divine revelation. The purpose of Divine revelation is always to assist people in preparing for life in eternity, which means, undergoing the effort and suffering involved in character reformation.
The suffering and pain of character reformation comes from the action of giving up something cherished. This is why we resist character reformation. We don't want to face that suffering. We want to hold on to what gives us satisfaction, pleasure, and apparent self-sufficiency. These mechanisms are inborn and inherited. Whatever they love to do, people call good, even when it is bad. The alcoholic taking another drink before driving home knows it's illegal and morally wrong, but the contentment and satisfaction involved in being drunk supersedes all other principles of morality and decency that the alcoholic possesses. This mechanisms is similar for all addictions.
Self-witnessing methodology of the threefold self involves one's feelings or emotions, one's thoughts or reasonings, and one's sensory or motor actions. It is within these three domains of behavior that the entire human drama takes place, both here and the hereafter. Hindu writers of old had access to sacred scripture that was transmitted to them by ancient civilizations prior to character degradation in the human race. Hindu religious writings take the point of view that the universe is like a dream. We are the dreamers, and if we progress in character up building, we can awaken from the dream of life into the discovery that we are Divine. Thus everyone is an illusion and there is only one Divine. This perspective is different from theistic psychology where there is an absolute duality maintained between God and creation, including human beings. But it does recognize the idea that thoughts are more powerful than any physical energy.
The awesome power of thoughts and feelings is not to be taken lightly. Self-witnessing allows us to examine our thoughts and feelings in the evaluative context of our principles of living or doctrine of life. As our doctrine becomes more and more spiritual and rational, we can apply our latest understanding to our willing and thinking all day long. The self-examination goes deeper and deeper as we progress in character reformation. There are specific spiritual laws which govern the developmental steps of character reformation. Knowing these steps from scientific revelations, allows us to cooperate with the built in mechanism and further our character reformation until we are adequately prepared for facing eternity.