Reconciling Religion and Psychology
Mysticism and religious experience have been dismissed by psychology as “nothing but” abnormal experiences or even medical conditions. Something Ralph Hood, Professor of Psychology and distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC), disagrees with. He gave a presentation on Mysticism and the Relationship between Religion and Spirituality at the international conference on Spirituality in Society and the Professions, which took place in the Waterford Institute of Technology from 16-18 May 2019.
He discussed the relationship between psychology and religion and how their abrupt divorce came about, focussing particularly on the work and influence of American philosopher and psychologist William James. In James’ The Principles of Psychology, Professor Hood notes that the author originally started out calling psychology a ‘natural science’, advocating that religion should be treated from that standpoint.
Later, as he saw the growing trend to reduce the natural sciences to narrow and empirically verifiable criteria, James abandoned that assumption. James later wrote his classic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, and in it said that one of the tasks of the psychologist is to uncover religious experience and then explore the way people interpret it in various traditions.
He believes that greater collaboration is needed between mental health professionals such as psychologists and psychiatrists and religious. “That’s why you need psychology and religion. It’s not psychology or religion.”
He explained more to Pat Coyle.