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Updated on July 15, 2010

In the aftermath of 9/11 we are faced with the implications that, even with respect to all the glories of the separation of Church and State, we cannot throw out the fact that cultures, societies and individuals are affected by their conceptions of God. Diplomatic relations and Foreign Affairs issues benefit from understanding personality and cultural influences of the conceptions of God (Ulanov & Ulanov, 1975). Psychology and spirituality can join forces to provide insight into the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious and personality development (Jung, 1938). Carl Jung's work entitled "Psychology and Religon" (1938) offers a critical commentary on applying critical understanding and thinking in cultural affairs. Application of theories of psychological development can guide the individual in a critical, social and cultural analysis of respect for these diverse conceptions of God. Such things as the Israeli / Palestinian conflict, terrorism, homeland security policies, and other political issues are issues that President Obama will continue to address as he forms our countries relationships globally in developing his own diplomatic policies (Kessler, 2008). Social psychological research conducted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks suggest that affective emotion such as anger and fear “have important and discrete ties to confrontational versus defensive public policy positions” as well as being associated with “a host of social psychological processes (e.g., value affirmation, in-group enhancement, out-group derogation)” (Skitka, Bauman, Aramovich, & Morgan, 2006, pg. 383).

Recently, there is an increasing trend towards teaching the Bible in public schools nationwide (Van Biema, 2007). The rationale is that secular teaching of the Bible can be an objective focus of study that does not violate the Constitutional mandate of separation of Church and State. Western culture is built upon ideas cultivated from Biblical themes. According to Justice Arthur Goldberg, the distinction is “the teaching of religion” (bad) and the “teaching about religion” (good)” (Van Biema, 2007, pg.42). “Justice Robert Jackson’s concurring opinion in the 1948 case McCollum v. Board of Education: ‘One can hardly respect the system of education that would leave the student wholly ignorant of the currents of religious thought that move the world society for … which he is being prepared” (Van Biema, 2007, pg. 42).

The argument for Biblical studies in public education is easily correlated to essential requirements in recognition of psychological factors, including personality functioning and development in relationship to cultural and personal ideas of God. The understanding of psychological relations, personality formation, and maturity influence conceptualizations of the freedoms and responsibility that are individual influences not only in relation to national civic citizenship, but also in relation to understanding global issues and foreign policy (Skitka, Bauman, Aramovich, & Morgan, 2006). In order to understand the personality and psychological implications of ideas of God, psychology can aim to follow the boundaries that the issue is formulating amidst the public school debates. “Legal challenges to Bible courses have focused not on the general principle but on whether the course in question was sufficiently neutral in its approach” (Van Beima, 2007, pg. 42). Neutrality in building a body of work that correlates the relationship and affects of religion and spirituality in the forming of personality and other psychological studies can facilitate critical thinking, deeper understanding of the issues, empathy, and respect for diversity.

The overt emphasis of the depravity of man without the counterbalance of the potential of mankind is closely akin to the ideas of the depravity of man producing “holy war” terrorists in fundamental Islamic countries. “For example, extremists on both the left and the right have relatively similar psychological profiles that are different from those with more moderate political orientations or ideologies” (Skitka, Bauman, Aramovich, & Morgan, 2006, pg. 377). We cannot really avoid the reality of the depravities in man, but ultimately many essential spiritual traditions, and most particularly Christianity is, at the very roots, based upon not only the depravities in man but also the potential of man. Humanity as a Divine conception, made in the image of God, includes the fact that the human being is a wonderful creation. “Humanity is something very, very complex and very wonderful. We are constantly discovering new factors and realms within the human soul, and it is the soul of man which is the very core of humanity” (Austin-Sparks, N.D.). A responsible psychology is forced to include in its search for promoting health in the ways and purposes of man, the relationships of spirituality, religion, and psychology for practical daily life (Jung, 1938). “There are two sides to this matter of humanity, the one, which is perfectly true, man’s (potential) for total depravity; the other, the wonderful dignity of man, the dignity of the human idea in the mind of God; and these two things have somehow got to be balanced, or many other evils will result” (Austin-Sparks, N.D.).

It is true that historically, many in the field of psychology originally ran to a way of science in the study of man, in order to escape and avoid the abuses of the concept of God (Miller, 1999). But, the most recent trend, is that many in the field of psychology are interested in understanding the relationships of spirituality, in contrast to a religious dogma, that are  relevant psychological constructs in the study of man. Even more interesting, is the recent flood of hurting people seeking help outside of their religions, and yet wanting to maintain and grow in applications of their personal and essential spiritual needs and ideas in the practical issues of daily life (Miller, 1999).

Many personality theorists include in their body of work ideas in regards to the relationship between mankind’s spirituality and their psychology. Fromm (1976), Adler (1964), Tillich (1975), and Fox (1972) all advocate pathways for including the understanding of spiritual needs in applications of psychology (as cited in Gruba-McCallister, 2007). It is just that due to a long period of focus on rational empiricism, these areas that include spirituality in the understanding of psychology, have been neglected. Psychology has the opportunity to address the issues of both the depravity and potential of man. Personality psychology in particular has the resources to present research in the form of practical applications that address the importance of harmony between the internal facets of man and the external rationalities of man (Feist & Feist, 2006). Personality psychology can become a voice of harmony in discussing the values and cautions in healthy applications of differences amidst religion and spirituality, internal and external congruence, and behavioral constructs of both the conscious and the unconscious. The mystery of man will always remain, and spirituality, as well as psychology must honor the mysteriousness of the fullness of human capacity. But personality psychology has much it can learn in partnership with understanding the knowable in a joint effort with concepts of spirituality and religion. Psychological explorations of man’s spiritual needs might offer checks and balances to misuses in both realms. Like all risk factors, human risk factors lie “in the shadow between the known and the unknown” (Manning, 2006, pg. 456).


Austin-Sparks, T. (N.D.) The house of God . Sargent, GA: The SeedSowers.

Feist, J, and Feist, G. J. (2006). Theories of personality . New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Gruba-McCallister, F. (2007, June). Narcissism and the empty self: To have or to be. Journal of Individual Psychology , 63 (2), 182-192. Retrieved October 20, 2008, from PsycINFO database.

Jung, C.G. (1938). Psychology and religion. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale UniversityPress.

Kessler, G. (2008, November 8). Obama stands at diplomatic crossroads. The Washington Post.

Manning, P. (2006, June). Reflections on Risk Analysis, Screening, and Contested Rationalities. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice , 48 (3), 453-469. Retrieved November 6, 2008, doi:10.1353/ccj.2006.0031

Miller, W.R. (Eds.). (1999). Integrating spirituality into treatment: Resources for practitioners. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Skitka, L., Bauman, C., Aramovich, N., & Morgan, G. (2006, December). Confrontational and Preventative Policy Responses to Terrorism: Anger Wants a Fight and Fear Wants 'Them' to Go Away. Basic and Applied Social Psychology , 28 (4), 375-384. Retrieved November 6, 2008, doi:10.1207/s15324834basp2804_11

Ulanov, A. & Ulanov, B. (1975). Religion and the unconscious. Philedelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press.

Van Biema, D. (2007, April 2). The case for teaching the Bible. Time, 40-46.


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    • profile image

      Glenda Klint 8 years ago

      Thanks for the feedback. I have read widely, but I have not read either "Siddhartha" or "The White Goddess", and have only been meaning to read "The Hero with a Thousand Faces", but have not yet accomplished. Thanks for the lead. I will look forward to reading them all.

      Glenda Klint

    • dyonder profile image

      dyonder 8 years ago from Colorado

      Interesting stuff. The sociological changes we're undergoing in these times will be seen more clearly through the lens of their historical value. Jung's work is easily one of the most influential contemporary interpretations of mankind, laying bare, as he does in his novel 'Man & His Symbols' the ideas behind some of our most basic precepts. If you haven't already, I suggest reading 'Siddhartha' by Hermann Hesse. The Jungian influences are very strong in this work and inherent in its presentation of spirituality. Kahlil Gibran is another author who has an exquisite manner of painting symbolism alongside spirituality. 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces', by Joseph Campbell, helps to represent the unity of symbolism common to all religions rather than focusing on their secular nature, something attempted by Robert Graves in his novel 'The White Goddess' but from a more literary point of view rather than sociological.