Beginnings of the BioSpiritual Institute
WHILE COMPLETING their doctoral studies at the University of Ottawa during the late 1960’s, Edwin McMahon and Peter Campbell brought together their complementary backgrounds in psychotherapy, Ignatian spirituality, the psychological investigation of religion, philosophy, and Christian theology to begin forming a unique synthesis.
Campbell was already very familiar with the works of Teilhard, but realized that the power of his intuitive sense for matter and spirit interacting within the cosmos and human evolution still lacked some necessary spark to ignite the full potential within Teilhard’s all-encompassing vision of “cosmogenesis,” “anthropogenesis,” and “christogenesis.”
McMahon, who brought more extensive research in spirituality and psychology as well as therapy experience to the team, agreed. Together they sought not only proven theoretical support for their synthesis, but McMahon began experimenting with the design of practical, experiential workshops. He sought to enable participants to begin developing what he initially called, “BioSpiritual Focusing,” and later, “the habit of felt sensing”–a body-based, psychologically healthy foundation for a global spirituality.
Putting their diverse backgrounds and experience together, it didn’t take McMahon and Campbell long to realize that Gendlin’s “felt sensing” was a critical key to the Teilhardian sense for evolution within human awareness. Here was the engine that drove forward congruence and the potential for further connecting. Both Teilhard de Chardin’s and Karl Rahner’s powerful grasp of the evolutionary interplay between matter and spirit was realized pragmatically and organically in human beings within the unfolding of their felt senses–what McMahon was calling, “the habit of felt sensing.”
IT WAS THE HUMAN BODY, together with it’s innate knowing potential, that was itself the doorway to future human progress.
A vast, untapped evolutionary resource lay waiting to be explored within the unending surprises that emerge whenever, as McMahon eventually would write, “…we learn to develop the habit of ‘noticing’ and ‘nurturing’ all our important feelings.”
The human body contains a further “more” or story beneath the bubbling surface events of daily living and personal history. Some deeper, implicit, evolutionary current lies waiting to move forward within every human life.
Campbell and McMahon had been trained in the spiritual tradition of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. With this common background they could appreciate the evolutionary spirituality of the two Jesuits, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Karl Rahner. It is the human body which provides our most grounded spiritual link, both to the details of daily living as well as the mystery of an evolving universe. Paradoxically, our body, which we so identify with mortality and decay, is itself our conscious bridge into immortality! It is our precious “link” to the universe as a whole–and beyond!
Peter Campbell & Edwin McMahon
In the early 1970’s, Campbell and McMahon set out to explore the link between Focusing and spirituality. They found that the body’s ability to experience felt meaning is our forgotten bridge into the experience of spirit and, as the poet William Wordsworth so eloquently proclaimed, the resource within consciousness for our, “Intimations of Immortality.”
BODY MEANING, they learned, came as spontaneous gift or surprise. Felt sensing was not a byproduct of logic and reason. It could neither be predicted nor controlled. There is a transcendent, “graced” quality to the felt sense as it unfolds meaning in the body.
McMahon and Campbell widened Focusing to emphasize this gift dimension, linking the mind-knowing of our information-based culture with our spirit-based body wisdom, opening a whole new paradigm of human consciousness for exploration. They initially called their synthesis, “BioSpiritual Focusing,” adding the prefix “Bio-” to highlight the body’s central contribution to the experience of gift or grace in human life. In more recent years they have come to realize that the critical key which unlocks this evolving human awareness is an ability to develop the “habit” of noticing and nurturing all important feelings, together with the body’s “felt sense knowing” that is implicit within our feelings.
If you have interest in knowing more about the early history of the Institute and its founders, Rev. Edwin McMahon and Rev. Peter Campbell, please go to our online library and click on the Institute History folder.