Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Friday, November 23, 2007

Psychology and Religion

James Hillman's book entitled "Insearch: Psychology and Religion" is written with the pastoral counselor in mind. In contemplating The Day of Reckoning, and the proposition of a Psychology of Islam within which we might place a psychology of Ultimate Concern, the following reflections by Hillman, a pre-eminent archetypal psychologist, are illuminating:

"Religious concern differs from theological or dogmatic concern for that would be to take up experiences into the already established positions of mental life or outer life, to put them to use and service, to place the soul in the yoke of profession. Rather the religious concern of the psyche comes in the form of spontaneous symbols that have similar representations in religion, such as the cross of opposites, the child in danger, the garden, the mountain, the gate and the guardian, the place of water, the wind, the desert, the grove of sacred trees - images that appear in dreams frequently. Or it arises from the religious motifs such as the importance of love, the battle with evil, the slaying of the dragon, the miraculous turn or cure. And the religious concern comes also in the form of intimations of immortality, eternity, metempsychosis, and questions of death, after-life, and judgment of this soul, what is right for it, where it is, where it will go next. In other words, the religious concern is a spontaneous manifestation of us each when the soul is refound.

The dogma and theology, too, take on new meaning. For on the one hand, the soul's questions and images are able to be fed by the background of traditional religion. And on the other hand, a sense of reawakened experience brings a freshness to the tradition and gives new meanings to it as the continuation of religion that is continually revealing itself. In other words, revelation stops whenever soul is lost and can no longer give experience and meaning to the basic myths, symbols, forms and proofs. For psychology, soul comes first - then religion. Yet also for psychology soul does not reach its fullness without realizing its religious concern.

Perhaps we cannot put either psychology or religion "first." The symbolic attitude of psychology arising from the experience of soul leads to a sense of the hidden numinous presence of the divine, while the belief in God leads to a symbolic view of life where the world is filled with significance and "signs." It is as if soul makes no choice between psychology and religion when they naturally lead into each other."

~ excerpted from "INSEARCH: Psychology and Religion," pp. 64-65

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