Religious implications of personalistic psychology
Sprott, James Turner
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There are conflicting interpretations of the psychology of religion. Because this is so, there is apt to be confusion as to which of these psychologies is relevant and adequate for interpreting personal religion. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine the concepts of representatives of five current psychologies for their implications, or their relevancy and adequacy, in interpreting religion. By religion is meant personal cooperation or communication with a conceived Creator and Sustainer of values. Psychology throws light on the understanding of religion mostly in the areas of the self, conscious experience, motivation, interpersonal relations and personality. The self is important in accounting for unity, identity, and change in experience. The functions of the self provide interest and integration in religious experience and behavior. Although the unconscious is contributary, the area of conscious experience is more so for understanding religion because it is in conscious experience and behavior that the unconscious has its effects. Moreover, consciousness provides the one and only true verification of religious experience. Motivation has to do with the psychological causes of the unique, personal, and dynamic experience as expressed in religious behavior. The area of interpersonal relations helps us to comprehend the degree to which social interactions and relationships affect personal religion. The development of personality leads to the organization of religious tendencies into habitual attitudes and traits of character. These five areas serve as a frame of reference in examining psychologies as to the adequacy of their concepts for a psychological understanding of religion. An examination of typological psychology as represented by Eduard Spranger reveals marked concern for understanding the religious man. However, religion is so broadly defined as to be almost meaningless. Although Spranger uses a religious self in his psychology, the five other ideal types he postulates blur any understanding of the single, whole individual, who is practically always a "mixed" type. His theory of motivation is limited to a simple set of instincts based on the attitudes of his six types. This is far too simple to account for the great varieties of attitudes in religiousness. The personality structure of the religious person in typological psychology is abstract and ideal, rather than concrete and practica1. Gestalt psychology as represented by Kurt Lewin has much to commend it. The dynamic concepts of ego and egosystems, fields of force, valence, tension, inner personal region, and goal regions throw much light on religious behavior. However, Lewin sees no need of a self and holds that the various egos are sufficient. This is confusing to one who has observed and experienced continuity in persons who seek to unify their behavior. Lewin is confined to momentary situations in which the person finds himself. The stability of the religious person himself is therefore overlooked. Behaviorism of the purposive type is represented by E.G. Tolman. As most of his conclusions about human beings are the results of inferences from rat behavior, there is very little light to be thrown on religiousness, a phenomenon without parallel in the behavior of lower animals. The question of a unifying agent is dismissed as a metaphysical question. The concepts of sign-Gestalt expectancy and need-cathexis come nearest to any concepts approaching religion. However, the former is non-conscious and the latter is a result of conditioning instincts. They are stimulus-bound and his other concepts also lack explanation of the deeper, future-oriented, and conscious aspects of behavior with which religion is concerned. Depth psychology has been both stimulating and productive of a psychological understanding in religion. Carl Jung, the representative examined, has concepts of the unconscious, psyche, collective unconscious, introversion, and extroversion and other concepts to lead to an understanding of some aspects of the religious person. However, practically all of his concepts are concerned with explaining the dynamics of the unconscious. Although the unconscious is valuable for understanding religion, it is not the whole story. Religious interests, attitudes, beliefs, symbols, and activities are also consciously motivated. Borden Parker Bowne, the first representative of the personalistic view in America has been largely overlooked as far as his psychology is concerned. An examination of his writings reveals principles that have been developed by later personalistic psychologists. Bowne emphasized empiricism in psychology. There is an indication of eclecticism in his writings that characterizes personalistic psychology. Bowne emphasizes the importance of purpose and conduct and a consistent morality as the important aspects of religiousness. If mysticism leads to that end, and does not become an end in itself, he saw it as worthwhile and important. He stressed the conscious striving of the individual. He notes the importance of habit-formation around ideals. Mary Whiton Calkins developed her personalistic psychology from clues given by Josiah Royce and William James. The self or soul had been taken for granted until mechanistic emphases came into psychology to challenge it. To clarify and reinstate the self in psychology was Calkins' aim. Her writings reveal a penetrating analysis of the various schools of psychology and their abstractness without a unifying agent. She showed how these schools could profit by and be reconciled with self psychology. She recognized that religiousness arises in the interaction of the self with other selves. As many of her other concepts are now outmoded and there was not sufficient integration of the useful concepts of other psychologies, we examine Stern's psychology for a modern personalistic approach. William Stern is fundamentally in agreement with Bowne and Calkins except for his view of the psychophysical neutrality of the person. His concepts, resulting from attempts to reconstruct general psychology around the person, are empirical, holistic, and activistic. His principles of convergence, introception, expansion of the realm of feeling, and his concern for religious experience, go beyond. the concepts of most psychologists today. Stern, Calkins, and Bowne are concerned with the striving of the self toward higher goals than mere biological adjustment. Gordon Willard Allport emphasizes the relatively persistent behavior tendencies of the individual when organized as personality. He points out that personality is composed of a hierarchy of levels consisting of habits, traits, and egos. He utilizes concepts from Gestalt, behavioristic, depth, and typological psychologies for depicting the unique individual person and his behavior. His concepts of functional autonomy of motives, intention, attitudes, and traits are fundamental for understanding the unique and common religious behavior of persons. The following conclusions are drawn from this study of the religious implications of personalistic psychology: 1. Personalistic psychology provides a wider range of concepts to understand religious persons than the other four psychologies examined. It includes concepts from other psychologies, yet in a larger and better integrated perspective. It is therefore more empirical for religion. 2. By actively and purposely attempting to account for the higher needs, personalistic psychology has thereby developed concepts that will apply to religious experience and conduct. Its relevancy is thus more distinct. 3. Personalistic psychologists place the mystical experience in its context, the living and acting personality. Not the origin of the mystical experience, but its effects on the ideals, intentions, and behavior tendencies prove a better criterion for understanding and evaluating mystical experience. 4. Personalistic psychology leaves the problem of reality and the truth, the validity of religious domna, to the philosophers and thus avoids confusion of aim and fields of investigation. 5. Personalistic psychology indicates more clearly than any other psychology the dynamics of change in religious behavior at the level of consciousness. This is accomplished by the process of functional autonomy of motives. 6. The theory of traits indicates that behavior may be initiated and guided by religious ideals despite particular situations or conventions. 7. Religiousness develops by means of introception, the conscious and meaningful incorporation of values into selfhood by worship, mysticimn, and other religious experiences. It is aided by interest, intention, learning, and needs. 8. Inconsistencies in religious behavior are understood by the position of religion in the dynamic organization of traits within the individual. The person has many traits. 9. The principles of ego-involvement and intention point to the freedom of the person in recognizing and introcepting religious values considered most important for him. 10. An understanding of the religious person ie more empirical, holistic, and adequate in terms of consciously integrated high-level concepts than in stimulus-bound, present-oriented, and reductionistic concepts.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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