Reflections on Nelson’s Psychology, religion, and spirituality, Johnson and Friedman’ Enlightened or delusional? Schneider’s Awakening to an awe-based psychology, and Fehl’s Spirituality and existentialism

Within the Universe, spiritually and otherwise, I see connections everywhere.  Nelson (2009) posits that that interconnectedness between psychology and religion has been especially dominant over the last century, but I would argue that it has been especially for millennia, though not categorized under any specific labels of Western Psychology, as is the case with Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Western Christianity or even Pagan Mysticism. In the article, religion is defined as a relationship to the Divine, that each of us know by one of several names, including the Universe within us All.

However, when Nelson (2009) calls out recent scholarship that interprets religion as habits, practices, or virtues, then it becomes a ritual.  If I can argue that a ritual is a religion, many other rituals that none would consider spiritual or religious, would be under this interpretation. A line may have to be drawn in this case, though some could and would make a case for the Church of Elvis [Presley].  The definition here is too broad to be considered serious, and the author’s references toward transcendence and spirituality seem disconnected with observed religiousness in this country where individuals commit all manner of inequities in the name of greed and selfishness during the week but attend their local church on Sunday with superficial piousness.  The article is also too broad to cover the subject of religion and psychology with anything more than superficial depth.  Nelson (2009) also cites statistics that indicate a majority of Americans of the United States are highly engaged and involved in their religion which I would be skeptical of without seeing a data analysis of the original study (Marler and Hadaway, 2002, in Nelson, 2009).

Johnson and Friedman (2008) explores religion, spirituality, and transpersonal psychology and contrasts them with psychopathology and ask what is real and what is delusional psychologically.  But his analysis calls into question his and other Western biases where diagnoses are necessarily subjective and influenced by personal beliefs and biases.  As a psychologist, this is something I have to make myself aware of every minute so my biases are questioned by myself constantly to avoid cultural insensitivity as much as possible.

Johnson and Friedman (2008) distinguishes between religiosity and spirituality though admits that sometimes the meanings overlap.  However, he relies heavily on the DSM for validation of so-called disorders that involve varying degrees of religious fervor.  I find it questionable to rely on standardized methodologies for a diagnosis that is incredibly subjective, based on the experiences of the one experiencing it versus another who is relying on clinical definitions that are questionable at best.  If the one who is experiencing the religious fervor is doing no harm to themselves or to others the intervention is invasive.  Additionally, who is to say that one form of religious propaganda is bad and another is not when the first amendment allows all of us the freedom to believe in Elvis as the Savior if we so choose (not me, you understand).

Schneider’s (2011) article unites Eastern with Western through existentialist (aka depth} psychology that has been present in Eastern spiritual practices, including Buddhism, for millennia.  This depth psychology has struggled to establish a stronghold in the West, in spite of the West’s interest in Eastern spiritual practices until recently according to Schneider.  However, I would question the veracity of that statement when Existentialism has been present in the West for the last 200 years at least, though not always associated with psychology.  It has been associated with spirituality and psychedelic experiences whether Buddhism, Islam, or LSD.

Fehl (2012) touches on an experience that may be taboo in public but is something that some ponder regularly:  How does one reconcile public life with private and live in harmony with others, the environment, and the Universe.  I had been taking a Buddhist Psychology class a few years ago, and while we discussed Buddhist Psychology, we also contemplated and discussed these connections and disconnections as well.  Fehl reminds me that this is something I need to return to to become whole in some ways, to heal in others, and to evolve.



Nelson, J. M. (2009). Psychology, religion, and spirituality. New York, NY: Springer. Required reading: Chapter 1: “Introduction to psychology, religion, and spirituality” (pp. 3-41)

Johnson, C. V. & Friedman, H. L. (2008). Enlightened or delusional? Differentiating religious, spiritual, and transpersonal experiences from psychopathology. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 48, 505-527. DOI 10.1177/0022167808314174.

Schneider, K. J. (2011). Awakening to an awe-based psychology. The Humanistic Psychologist, 39, 247-252. DOI 10.1080/08873267.2011.592464

Fehl, S. (2012) Spirituality and existentialism. Retrieved from

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