Every human being faces a continual choice on which all else depends. This choice is whether develop their potential or not. This explains the worldwide success of disciplines that focus on "personal development" or "personal growth". This is not so far from what Jesus described in the
Parable of the Talents: "It will be as when a man who was going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one - to each according to his ability" (Mt 25).
Each of us can develop this potential or keep it well hidden in the depths of ourselves. Nobody forces us. God created us free and we can use our freedom to do what we want. Psychology was born perhaps for this reason: to help modern men develop themselves. Psychology appeared in the West just as the 18th-century churches were experiencing a deep crisis. In a sense psychology slowly to do what men of religion were no longer able to do: to respond to perennial questions in the language of the present day. Psychology has to a great extent failed in this task. Many techniques simply do not work and put human beings in mental cages that are worse than those they wanted to abandon. But some techniques work. So many people in recent decades have started to follow their own path of development with techniques such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Neurosemantics. Again, a high percentage of those who practice and teach these subjects do so for business purposes, without grasping the actual importance of these disciplines.
The problem with psychology is that if you keep digging you find yourself having to deal with the soul. You enter into mysterious depths in which scientific method is no longer functional. Psychology is back where it started from. But many scholars, marked by the schism between Christianity and postmodernity, respond by exploring other spiritualities, be they Buddhist, Hindu or New Age. So many of those who have been involved in training end up in the East. Some of them do this in a somewhat commercial way, such as the followers of Osho. Others do it in a more aware way: for example, Daniel Goleman, author of the revolutionary Emotional Intelligence, who is now a Buddhist activist. Many others have borrowed techniques here and there, exporting to the West disciplines as Reiki, Omega Healing and other practices that mix elements of Buddhism, Hinduism or New Age spirituality with a little science and a fair bit of credulity.
The question is: would it not be easier to simply return to Christian spirituality? This is, after all, the spirituality that shaped the West. All westerners still carry it inside, even if in a hibernated version.
Yet the invitation that comes from that marginal place 2,000 years ago where it all began is very clear: "So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). It is Jesus himself who invites us to walk a path of development, to reach our full human potential.