Before we dwell on what has spirituality got to do with psychology, let us take a look at the true facts of the history of psychology and how it deviated from the original study of human character.
The true facts of the history of psychology:
Edward Reed who was the associate professor of psychology at Franklin and Marshall College mentioned in his book, From Soul to Mind; Early in the nineteenth century, psychology was considered a science of the soul; by the end of the century, it had abandoned the soul to become a science of the mind. Reed’s research traces back to Robert Whytt (1711-66), a physician who taught at the prestigious school of the University of Edinburgh. “Whytt invented both the idea and the term stimulus, by which he meant a brief application of a physical energy (light, heat, mechanical energy, electricity) to a nerve. Whytt argued that nerves could somehow bring the impression of that stimulus to the spinal cord, where the organism would, in some way, ‘feel’ the stimulus and begin the process of responding to it. Whytt’s conceptual emphasis on stimuli to the nervous system became the basis of virtually all later psychological research and had immense influence during the next century and a half. But Whytt has never been given credit by internalist historians for his fundamental breakthrough, because he called the ‘sentient principle’ (which he explicitly suggested was a sort of subordinate soul) in the spinal cord – an idea that was eliminated from ‘scientific’ psychology in the second half of the nineteenth century.” (Reed xiii).
“Time and time again, I found that psychologist towards the end of the 1800s would restate Whytt’s ideas in the language of the mind rather than the soul, without crediting him. In fact, Charles Sherrington, to whom the modern reflex theory is due, followed Whytt’s ideas closely in everything except the language in which they were expressed, receiving credit for a good bit of the work Whytt had done a century and a half earlier.” (Reed xiv).
Throughout the book From Soul to Mind, Reed relates the historical story of the progressive narrowing of focus, the story of how psychology became a science, divorced itself from literature, and invented that most modern of concepts, the mind. Reed’s research on Whytt and his influence was supported by a Drexel University Research Grant, while bibliographical research on nineteenth century psychology was supported by the Franklin and Marshall College faculty research fund. The research funding alone speaks much of Reed’s work and bolsters the credibility of his work.
“Mainstream psychological theory from 1815 to 1830 had been committed to the existence of a conscious individual soul.” (Reed 128).
The return of spirituality to psychology:
Within the last ten years, some psychotherapists have come up with new treatment based on spiritually oriented treatment models and were recently published by Sperry and Shafranske (2005).
Richard and Bergin (2004) built a casebook on spiritual strategies for counseling and psychotherapy with contributions from a wide range of spiritually inspired psychotherapists.
Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality by Paloutzian and Park (2005) indicate a growing trend in research within mainstream psychology acknowledging the positive effects on health and well-being seen through the combination of psychotherapy with the role of religion and spirituality.
The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence by Roehlkepartain, et al (2006). This is a book that specifically addresses the spiritual requirements of the young generation.
It is a matter of time that psychology come to acknowledge the fact that humans are foremost spiritual beings as spirituality is central to their lived experience. In a landmark study, Kendler, et al (322-329), using a twin study design, found that a personal sense of connection to the creator is about 30 percent attributed to broad heritability, such that (biological reductionism aside) a personal connection to the universe is part of our inherent constitution.
New psychotherapists could be trained to be in touch with their own spiritual experience and this will allow the field to expand beyond its current limitations. Through spiritual awareness pedagogy, new psychotherapists could be trained to enhance their spiritual awareness. Miller and Athan (17-35).
Dr. Lisa Miller, “What has naturally emerged in my work with clients is a process of spiritual awareness psychotherapy (SAP). Ultimately, in the final phase of SAP, the clarity of a fundamental spiritual reality comes to fore, and the client considers a life built upon relying on the spiritual as a foundation.” - Spiritual Awareness Psychotherapy DVD Miller (2005). (Rayburn 225).
The Dutch psychotherapist coined the intriguing expression ‘Spirituality in Exile’ in order to characterize contemporary spiritualities that flourished without religion. This expression indicates that spiritualities have moved to the margin of religious institutions and exist at their periphery, far removed from the center that religion once occupied in people’s lives.’ (Kingsley 56).
The psychotherapist Victor Schermer argues in his book that a spiritually based psychology provides a new paradigm for psychology, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy. He speaks of a ‘psychospiritual self’, and maintains that important empirical evidence exists to show that spirituality is linked to human development. “Three areas support this view: first, research on infants that shows that their development occurs within a living-systems, relational perspective; second, the expanding research on higher consciousness, from dreaming states to the slowed brainwaves of people who meditate, to differentiated left/right brain functions and other experiments; and third, studies on the increased capacity for perception, healing, altruism, concentration, and other characteristics which are developed through spiritual practices.” (170).
“Contemporary psychotherapy reveals numerous links to spirituality. If spirituality can emerge from many experiences and is interwoven with every aspect of human life, then it must also exist within numerous other contexts of contemporary cultures – a culture so often characterized as having lost a sustaining spiritual vision.” (Schermer 121).
“The esteemed editor who brought us the acclaimed four-volume set the ‘Destructive Power of Religion’ also wrote; Radical Grace: How belief in a benevolent God benefits our health turns his attention here to a similarly powerful, yet positive side of religion: how our concept of God can fuel healthy body and mind. This book contends that all health- mental and physical-is shaped, for good or ill, to our spiritual, theological, and psychological notions about the nature of God, and by that form an outlook on life. Across history, a large percentage of people have believed that God is a threat, an attitude Ellens describes as ''sick gods created through pathological beliefs or ''sick gods that make sick people's But Ellens grounds his brighter perspective in this text on God as a sluice of unconditional grace and goodwill, then illuminates the effect this perspective has on people who have incorporated it into their minds and lives. Ellens shows that people with firm faith in God's -radical graced are psychologically strong and healthy. His offering of psychology interfacing with theology is reminiscent of Carl Rogers' teaching on unconditional positive regard and its ability to heal suffering persons. All readers, he explains, can benefit by this understanding that can inspire spiritual and psychological healing whether for ourselves, family, friends, or clients in counseling or therapy.” (Inside cover).
“I saw life as a spiritual journey. I was shown that all the events of existence, even the traumatic ones, were essentially for spiritual evolution.” (Linn xiv).
The mere fact that spirituality is becoming more prominent in the fields of psychology is a testament that the awareness of the existence of soul and spirituality play important and crucial role in the total well-being of humans. Indirectly it reinforces the proof that the soul is the authentic self and that many of life’s issues are spiritually based rather than that of the thinking mind.