Psychology and Religion - RSST5780

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


The purpose of this module is to survey some of the most significant 20th century trends in the dialogue between psychology and religion through the writings of depth-psychologists, philosophers, theologians, anthropologists and phenomenologists of religion. The module begins by exploring the varieties of religious experience, especially through the work of William James and Rudolf Otto, after which it examines the contributions of psychoanalysis and analytical psychology to the study of religion, particularly in the work of Freud, Jung and Hillman. This material provides the basis for subsequent discussion of the interdisciplinary literature comparing religious altered states of consciousness (mystical, visionary and paranormal experiences) with other altered states of consciousness (madness, drug induced experiences etc.). The module concludes by discussing the principle issues addressed by transpersonal psychology (particularly in the work of Wilber and Grof): the relationship between western psychotherapies and eastern religious disciplines of spiritual emancipation; competing models of spiritual transformation.


Contact hours

1 hour lecture and 2 hour seminar each week for 10 teaching weeks


Also available at Level 5 (TH600)

Method of assessment

50% Coursework
50% Exam

Indicative reading

Indicative reading list:


W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1960.
R. Otto, The Idea of the Holy, 1958.
H. L. Philp, Freud and Religious Belief, 1956.
M. Palmer, Freud and Jung on Religion, 1997.
C. G. Jung, Psychology and Religion (C. W. 11), 1958.
R. Segal, The Gnostic Jung, 1992.
H. Coward, Jung and Eastern Thought, 1985.
J. J. Clarke, Jung and Eastern Thought: A Dialogue with the Orient, 1994.
T. Moore, The Essential James Hillman: A Blue Fire, 1989.
R. C. Zaehner, Mysticism: Sacred and Profane, 1961.
S. & C. Grof (ed), Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis, 1989.
J. Beloff, Parapsychology: A Concise History, 1993.
K. Wilber, Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy, 2000.
S. Grof, The Adventure of Self-Discovery: Dimensions of Consciousness and New Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Inner Exploration, 1988.


D. Hay, Exploring Inner Space, 1982.
D. M. Wulff, Psychology of Religion: Classic and Contemporary Views, 1991.
A. Hardy, The Spiritual Nature of Man: A Study of Contemporary Religious Experience, 1979.
G. W. Barnard, Exploring Unseen Worlds: William James and The Philosophy of Mysticism, 1997.
D. Capps, Men, Religion and Melancholia: James, Otto, Jung and Erikson, 1997.
M. Raphael, Rudolf Otto and the Concept of Holiness, 1997.
P. C. Almond, Rudolf Otto: An Introduction to His Philosophical Theology, 1984.
R. S. Steele, Freud and Jung: Conflicts of Interpretation, 1982.
E. Fromm, Psychoanalysis and Religion, 1950.
N. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History, 1959.
D. Bakan, Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition, 1958.
D. R. Dyer, Jung's Thoughts on God: Religious Depths of the Psyche, 2000.
A. B. Ulanov, Religion and the Spiritual in Carl Jung, 1999.
J. W. Heisig, Imago Dei: A Study of C. G. Jung's Psychology of Religion, 1979.
R. Noll, The Jung Cult: The Origins of a Charismatic Movement, 1994.
J. J. Clarke (ed), Jung on the East, 1995.
J. Hillman, Archetypal Psychology: A Brief Account, 1983.
J. Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology, 1975.
A. Bharati, The Light at the Centre, 1976.
F. Staal, Exploring Mysticism, 1975.
P. Devereux, The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia, 1997.
I. M. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion, 1971.
K. Wapnick, 'Mysticism and Schizophrenia' in J. White (ed), The Highest State of
Consciousness, 1972.
J. E. Nelson, Healing the Split: Integrating Spirit into our Understanding of the Mentally Ill, 1994.
S. Gooch, Creatures from Inner Space, 1984.
B. Cortright, Psychotherapy and Spirit: Theory and Practice in Transpersonal Psychology, 1997.
K. Wilber, A Brief History of Everything, 1997.
D. Rothberg & S. Kelly (ed), Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations in Transpersonal Psychology, 1998.
S. Grof & H. Z. Bennett, The Holotropic Mind: The Three Levels of Human Cosciousness and How They Shape Our Lives, 1990.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module students should be able to:

(i) demonstrate knowledge a wide range of materials lying at the interface between psychology and religion;
(ii) demonstrate competence in handling the terms and concepts of depth-psychological literature on religious experience;
(iii) demonstrate skills necessary for a critical reading of texts either describing or interpreting religious experience;
(iv) discuss the themes of the module in an informed way and relate them to wider issues in the field of religious studies;
(v) write lucid, carefully constructed essays supported by textual evidence, endnotes and bibliographic sources;
(vi) participate in group discussion of issues raised in seminars;
(vii) present thoughtful seminar papers and head group discussion on the main themes introduced by them;
(viii) engage in individual research on selected materials using the full range of library, computing and IT skills and resources.

In order to differentiate between the two levels (5 and 6) at which the module is operating, level 6 students produce two essays (2,000 words), whereas level 5 students produce only one.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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