The field of modern psychology has its roots in the ancient spiritual traditions of the East. Our understanding of the human psyche pre-dates the scientific method. What is the psychology of religion methodology?
A familiar spark drives our desire to seek answers to the unknown. Both religion and science have different ways of approaching this quest. Are they compatible or even complementary? All good questions.
On the surface, the principles of psychology, spirituality, and religion seem different. But this isn’t the case. We will also discover how religious belief affects our cognitive processes. It even changes the structure of the brain.
The Essential Spiritual Principles
We need to define the subject’s terms if we find the answers to the questions above. This inquiry has three main elements: spirituality, religion, and psychology.
What is Psychology?
Psychology is a complex blend of theory and verifiable fact. It comes from a long line of deep thinkers. The modern version of this discipline became a distinct branch of science in the 19th century (1).
The pioneers of psychology wanted to set it apart from philosophy and religion. These researchers shifted the focus from esoteric philosophy to the use of evidence. This is the scientific method. Yet, the roots of these earlier esoteric traditions remain a part of its framework.
The culture links the psychology of religion and spirituality. The Latin word psychologia was first used by the humanist Marko Marulić in 1510. His book, Psichiologia de ratione animae humanae, was the first to use the term to describe the study of the mind.
Psychology is the study of thinking and behavior. It is a science that uses data to substantiate its conclusions. You can gather data directly or indirectly. For example, questionnaires are a direct method of gathering data. Observation is an indirect method of obtaining data. The trick is to interpret the data with accuracy.
Statistics help us determine the accuracy of the conclusions we derive from the data. When you plot data points on a bell curve, the highest degree of accuracy falls within the top 1 to 3% of the bell curve. Tools like the Enneagram have this kind of accuracy when administered correctly. Just because a tool is popular doesn’t mean it is accurate. The Myers-Briggs Indicator is an example of pseudoscience with little accuracy and reliability.
The early pioneers of psychology collaborated and borrowed from each other. We find similar ideas in the works of Carl Jung (1875-1961) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). They also borrowed from earlier spiritual traditions like the Enneagram.
For example, “Freudian Psychology” divides the psyche into three parts: the Id, the Ego, and the Super Ego. This structure mirrors the Enneagram, only with different labels. The Enneagram uses instinct, personality, and cultural narrative.
Claudio Naranjo (1932-2019) continued to develop the Enneagram and other therapies like Gestalt. George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1877) was a traveler and spiritual explorer. He developed his self-development system by borrowing from as many traditions as possible. These scientists of consciousness wrote and published several works. It is obvious they all borrowed ideas from each other.
It is fair to say psychology has roots in spiritual principles like the Enneagram. The Enneagram comes from much earlier traditions. These spiritual pioneers developed a framework that is still valid. The advent of contemporary publishing methods helped to spread knowledge and theories.
The Freudian method does not provide a holistic view of the psyche. It assumes everyone has suppressed sexual issues. It overlooks the other two main instinctual aspects of social and self-preservation. The Enneagram is a more holistic approach.
There are several branches of psychology. Each branch has its own theory of how the human psyche works. Which one is right? There are several branches, from clinical and cognitive to occupational and neuropsychology.
Modern psychiatry focuses more on diagnosing so that they can label someone. This diagnosis is used to justify billing and prescribing medication. This takes it farther away from the spiritual principles of psychology.
What is a Methodology?
A methodology is a set of processes and principles used in a discipline or activity. Religious methodologies are the guidelines developed by a specific religion. These guides outline what is acceptable and what is not.
Religious methodologies often contain codified creeds. A creed is a statement of beliefs. Creeds outline the main points, which are the minimum required for belonging to the sect.
What is the Psychology of Religion Methodology?
A Religion is a belief system that uses mythology and superstition as a basis for its answers. It centers on a higher power or God and codifies mortality “in relation” to the doctrines of their myths. The Abrahamic religions have many variations. Every sect has its own translation and interpretation of its “divinely” inspired texts.
Some religions do not have imaginary friends or enemies. For instance, Buddhism focuses on approaching life as an experiment. Its goal is to enrich the lives of everyone and everything. According to Kant, religion is only as good as the equality of its morality. (2)
The psychology of religion methodology is based on self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is a trance state which produces a highly suggestive state of mind. There are varying degrees of this state.
What are The Spiritual Principles of Psychology?
According to Immanuel Kant, religion is the codification of rules for morality. It’s not enough to have rules if you don’t have someone to police and enforce them. So, that’s where the concept of God comes into the mix.
Morality is a particular framework of thinking that tells what is right and wrong. Morality is on a sliding scale. It may be against one’s morals not to kill, but it is okay to kill someone if you are defending someone (or something).
Ancient people sought an answer to unexplained phenomena. They created the concept of God to account for all things unknown. Many believe this supernatural entity provides the basis for moral values. In the West, most people equate the belief in God to spirituality. However, belief in a supernatural entity has nothing to do with spirituality.
Spirituality deals with the spirit, which is synonymous with consciousness. Consciousness expresses itself in awareness. What we call Psychology is the rebranding of earlier systems of consciousness exploration. These systems are found in ancient and indigenous traditions. We’ve already mentioned the Enneagram.
The spiritual principles of psychology focus on “we and not me.” What does living a life with this kind of focus? It is a positive, action-based life. It is a life that champions causes that benefit humankind and the planet.
The Dark Psychology of Religion Methodology
Psychology is born out of the need to give credible answers to the operation of the human mind. There are many types or brands within the model we know as the psychological sciences.
Some of the most well-known psychological typologies lack scientific validity. Yet they are still used because they are popular. The Meyers-Briggs personality indicator system has no scientific validity. The Meyers-Briggs Foundation created this test in 1917. It uses a questionnaire that produces a wide variety of results for the same person.
The Meyers-Briggs profile does not provide reliable testing results. However, it is easy to incorporate into other marketable tools. So, it is championed by many in the consulting industry. Thus, it has become the basis for many other testing instruments. It “resembles” more reliable tools and is incorporated into different tests.
At best, Meyer-Briggs provides a snapshot of how an individual feels “today.” But this profile changes depending on the circumstances, mood, and the task. So, it is not a good indicator of personality type or instinctual stack.
On the other side are tools like the Enneagram Personality Profile and MMPI. These tools also use questionnaires but provide repeatable and clinically reliable testing results. However, it is a much more involved test to administer and requires more work to ferret out the results. So, it is not used as widely because it requires a higher level of proficiency to administer.
Let’s look at the factors that affect how our mind interacts with religious beliefs. Learn how these interactions influence our behavior, decision-making, and overall well-being.
1. The Power of Belief: Unveiling the Cognitive Foundations of Faith
The stories we embrace mold our beliefs. Everything from childhood fairy tales to religious narratives contributes to our worldview. They also shape our cognitive processes. The ancient pioneers of the ancient mystery religions devised tools to control thinking. These tools include what we call propaganda and groupthink manipulation. They are the bedrock of organized religion. Later, these tools were adopted by the modern advertising industry. These tools of manipulation work. The more exposure we have, the greater their influence on our thinking.
Religious faith is the cornerstone of magical thinking. This process uses the power of indoctrination to install mythology as fact. It misuses the spiritual principles of psychology to brainwash children and the vulnerable. When you replace facts and evidence with fairy tales, it creates a slippery slope. It establishes the ideal mindset for manipulation. Our minds find comfort in the meaning provided by religious myth.
Delusions of myth and superstition make programming other harmful thought scripts possible. If the source of the delusions is trusted, then it doesn’t matter how outrageous the assertion is.
2. Religion and Decision-Making: Divine Cognitive Biases
There is no doubt that religious beliefs influence decision-making. Our cognitive processes intersect seamlessly with accepted religious beliefs. Religious convictions are integral in shaping our choices, moral judgments, and behaviors.
Cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias, are powerful psychological forces. When programmed with harmful bias and prejudice, we literally have no choice. We cannot be persuaded by facts or logic. The narrow bandwidth of religious belief restricts our choices. It requires unbelief in anything that contradicts the paradigm.
3. Rituals and the Mind: Uniting Humanity through Shared Practices
The sacred spaces of religious rituals and ceremonies are a form of self-hypnosis. Here, the mind engages in a dance of symbolism. It often manufactures sensory experiences to support these delusions.
Whether it be prayer or communal worship, rituals have a profound impact on our cognitive processes. These rituals tap into our cognitive mechanisms, influencing attention, emotions, and subjective experiences. They bond with others who share the same narrow religious beliefs.
4. Believers vs. Non-Believers: Cognitive Differences or Quirks?
Intriguingly, the differences between religious believers and non-believers extend beyond belief systems. Researchers have explored the cognitive distinctions that underlie religious adherence and healthy skepticism. These differences are driven by upbringing and cultural programming.
A believer does not view the world the same way a non-believer does. One sees a hungry person seeking help, and the other sees a dangerous immigrant unworthy to be a part of the culture.
Religious beliefs reshape the psychic structures of the mind. They create boundaries and often trigger our fight, flight, or freeze reaction to anything programmed. The believer reacts to a fact that conflicts with their beliefs as if it were a life-threatening attack by a wild animal. Organized religion and cognitive processes merge. The more extreme the beliefs, the more extreme the reaction.
5. The Role of Religion in Mental Health: The Healing Power of Faith
As humans, we navigate psychological challenges and emotional turmoil throughout our lives. Religion has long been intertwined with the concepts of solace, hope, and mental well-being. But do they work as a solution, or is religious belief a trade-off?
Are you accepting false hope in an imaginary world for a real solution? The psychological underpinnings of religious coping mechanisms are sandcastles. Religious beliefs can offer comfort, but only if you continue to immerse yourself deeper and deeper into self-hypnosis. Those who do find this comfort are those who accept unhealthy religious extremist ideologies.
One of the essential spiritual principles is not to harm others or yourself. Value all life, including nature. When we honor this principle, everyone benefits.
Conclusion: The Dark Psychology of Religion Methodology
Understanding the psychology of religion and cognitive processes has never been more important. By delving into the cognitive foundations of faith, we see the impact of religious beliefs on decision-making.
We can see how rituals are self-hypnosis techniques that manipulate thinking and values. Knowing that beliefs influence the psyche structures of the mind, we can be mindful of what we accept. We can better combat the effects by expanding our understanding of how religion intertwines with cognition. Such insights illuminate this complex relationship. It also sheds light on our common humanity and the diverse ways we navigate the remarkable journey of life.
Unraveling Religion and Cognitive Processes
How Religion and Spirituality are Interconnected and Intertwined
The psychology of religion and spirituality contain similar subject matter. But is that enough to make them similar simply because they talk about the same things?
We know the branch of human understanding as the psychological sciences were born out of philosophy. It began as the experimental study of human behavior. In 1854, Gustav Fechner created a theory about how humans process experience and derive judgments. He conducted thousands of experiments today known as Signal Detection Theory.
Immanuel Kant questioned the validity of calling psychology a science. This is because measuring and quantifying the results of any specific technique is difficult. He regarded it as another “theory of spirituality” (Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, 1786) (3). Psychology still fights to prove its validity as a true science rather than a philosophical approach.
Psychology deals with the objects or phenomena given in internal experience. And the natural sciences deal with the objects or phenomena given in external experience and their relations.” — Immanuel Kant
Spirituality is the source of religion and psychology. All three attempt to answer the same questions. Most times, they share the same ideas. The purest form of spiritual exploration that exists today is Shamanism. Here, we find both process and metaphor, which seek to explain the domain of human experience.
Religion follows Shamanism. However, religion is absent of any process for spiritual exploration. It relies on mythology and superstition to derive its answers.
Spiritual Versus Religious Psychology
Many see the psychology of religion and spirituality as two different things. Religious psychology projects ideology as a pattern for describing aspects of the psyche. So, it is limited by the boundaries of religion and the accuracy or lack thereof.
The psychology of spirituality looks at methods that test its assumptions against evidence. So, it isn’t bound by the confines of any single worldview; it evolves with new facts. Religious psychology is a closed system. It resists change. In contrast, spiritual psychology is open to revision with new findings.
“Spirituality is rebellion; religiousness is orthodoxy. Spirituality is individuality; religiousness is just remaining part of the crowd psychology. Religiousness keeps you a sheep, and spirituality is a lion’s roar.” — Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, Osho
Religion boils down to theology based on mythology and superstition. It’s a way to explain the unknown using the linchpin of an imaginary friend. It uses this anchor on which to build any number of beliefs.
Once you buy into the idea of God, then religion provides you with any flavor of theology to control your mind. You suddenly become a “chosen one.” You become one of the few who “get it.” Once in the club, you must accept all the other things that come with the membership. You hate who your religion tells you to hate. And now you have God’s permission to do so—this is the psychology of religion.
“The object is evident in the name of the discipline. Similarly, theology (theologia) is the study of God. The object of theology is not the church’s teaching or the experience of pious souls. It is not a subset of ethics, religious studies, cultural anthropology, or psychology. God is the object of this discipline.” — Michael Horton
The goal of the psychology of spirituality is simple. It is equality, justice, and sustainability for everyone and the planet. Spirituality is an action verb for “doing the right thing.” It promotes positive actions with everyone and everything in mind. The psychology of religion and spirituality couldn’t be farther apart.
Spirituality deals with the spirit and soul. These are ancient words synonymous with what we call consciousness. So, spirituality is about exploring consciousness. The psychology of religion methodology is about promoting mythology and superstition as fact. So, spirituality and religion are not the same. Nor are they compatible.
Science is a structured way of finding truth using evidence. It means science is not 100% compatible with religion. Science can be compatible with spirituality to the extent they share the same goals.
(1) A History of Modern Psychology, Duanep/Schultz,
(2) Origin And Growth Of Religion, by Muller, F. Max, 1879
(3) Kant’s Prolegomena and Metaphysical Foundations of natural science. 1883 by Ernest Belfort, 1854-1926