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Psychology & Spirituality

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery— even if mixed with fear— that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man.


-Albert Einstein

Over the course of the 20th century, as the field of psychology became canonized in American universities, it slowly but surely became more and more "objective" in its approach.  Psychology departments increasingly situated themselves in the Natural Sciences branch of academia, and as such, attempted to study the human psyche through objective, scientific means.  As a result, focus on such difficult to quantify areas such as the soul or spirituality lost favor.  The secularization of education and the rise of the scientific/atheistic worldview supported this development.


Today, in most universities, the study of the human soul seems to happen only in humanities classes--poetry, film, art, and literature.  Sadly, many great pioneering psychologists, like William James, Carl Jung, Rollo May and Abraham Maslow, are not covered in Psychology department curricula.


Contrary to the trend in academia, there has been a flourishing of interest in the realm of psychology and spirituality.  Yoga practice has spread like wildfire along with interest in Eastern spirituality.  Even Oprah has caught on to the trend, promoting thinkers such as Eckhart Tollee and Deepak Chopra.  There is good reason for this explosion of interest in spirituality.  Finding connection to something beyond oneself and finding a place in which one can confidently invest one's faith has grown increasingly difficult today.  This is due to of a number of factors:

  • The rise to dominance of the scientific worldview

  • The Western world's emphasis on individualism and individual freedom

  • The Postmodern world's realization of the realitivity and constructed nature of all assertions

  • The numerous examples of dubious morality and fradulence of many religious instutions and spiritual leaders/gurus

  • Darwinian, Marxist, and Freudian critiques of the Judeo-Christian worldview

Faced with difficulty finding connection to higher purpose, the postmodern individual is left alone, uprooted, and without direction.  An experience of malaise accompanies this condition, which can lead a person to seek out psychotherapy or alternative healing.  Unfortunately, such people are often prescribed anti-depressants or taught coping skills rather than helped to identify the root cause of their malaise.  To be truly helpful to such a client, the therapist must herself have grappled with questions of sprituality, faith, and finding meaning in a postmodern world.


The all-transcending mystery of the cosmic process is the only possible direction of the thrust of life… unless [people] direct their lives towards this, they are hopelessly, fetishized and bent upon narrow and ignoble things.


-Ernest Becker

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