Jung's Theory of the Psychology of Religion and Some Implications for Related Empirical Research
Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Educational Policy and Leadership
Contemporary empirical research in the psychology of religion has two major deficiencies: It lacks consensus regarding a definition of religion, and, most often, it is conducted without a theoretical framework. The purposes of this study were to present a definition of religion useful for research, to derive from Jung's writings his theory of the psychology of religion, and to demonstrate the applicability of Jung's theory as a theoretical framework for scientific research. Religion is defined as experience of and careful attention to the numinous, and as the expression in manifold historical and symbolical forms of a universal model of human reaction to the realm of the sacred. To Jung, ordinary consciousness and the personal unconscious coexisted with a profoundly unconscious psychic sphere, the collective unconscious. Contents of the latter, from earliest history, were projected into the external environment and are recognized as universal, mythological themes found at the core of every major religion. The themes derive ultimately from the archetypes, which are the extra-psychic, dynamic, numinous, organizing principles of psychic and instinctual life. Thus, to Jung, religion was the symbolic expression of life's meaning. Jung proposed that optimum psychological health was not possible when consciousness loses its intrapsychic connectedness with the regulating religious factor. Jung's approach to understanding the meaning of mythico-religious symbolism was phenomenological and hermeneutic, as opposed to reductionistic or speculative. The correspondence of Jung's two categories of religious believers (those who "live" their faith and those who merely believe in a creed) with the intrinsic-extrinsic religious orientations of Allport and Ross (1967) and the committed-consensual categories of Allen and Spilka (1967) was shown to have practical implications for testing some of Jung's hypotheses. Representative studies concerning the relationship of religion to prejudice, mental health, and authoritarianism, and studies of religious experience were reviewed. Research findings were generally consistent with Jung's views. Specific suggestions were made for empirically testing some of Jung's hypotheses about religion and mental health, the function of dogma, and the nature of religious experience.