Psychology and Spirituality

On a Quest to Understand Consciousness

Psychology and spirituality, prima facie, appear as two diverging fields. The concepts formed in psychology are based on empirical observations and reasoning and the concept of Ultimate Reality does not fit into its framework. On the contrary, in spirituality the concepts do not have underpinning of reasoning and empirical observations, the observations are internal, subjective experiences or mystical experiences. The concept of Ultimate Reality is central to spirituality. Despite so many basic differences in psychology and spirituality what binds them together and what is that strong bond which has been carrying two disciplines together and has become even stronger in modern times after the comeback of spirituality in the West. This bond is of ‘mind and consciousness’. Both exist in reality and both occupy supreme position in psychology and spirituality. Within the domain of mind, there is also a concept of ‘the self’, which is also of central importance in psychology and spirituality and that determines the behaviour of a person. The concept of ‘the self’ is much older than the history of psychology. Until middle of nineteenth century, the discipline of psychology was non-existent and its concepts such as mind, consciousness, the self, human behaviour and ethics were discussed in a branch of philosophy. But as  new concepts and new experimental methods began to develop in Natural Sciences, the empiricism of science outweighed the rationalism of philosophy and with efforts of 3 W’s; Wilhelm Wundt, William James and Watson, Psychology came into existence, just 150 years ago! Psychology treats ‘consciousness’ as a literary term and the ‘self-consciousness’ is a personality trait in which a person is excessively conscious of her / his looks, appearance or manners, which when escalated can become a psychological problem. In positive context, a person can be self-conscious of his weaknesses and tries to overcome it by improving himself and in turn achieves boosted self-confidence. Further, details of ‘self-consciousness’ can be found in any text books of psychology.

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