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Sacred Psychology

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Psychology today pathologizes all aspects of the human condition without ever examining its own ills, which have caused it to become fragmented. People from non-Western backgrounds are often adversely affected by the limitations of the discipline, and often avoid treatment altogether. By contrast, a true “science of the soul” has existed for millennia in all the world’s diverse spiritual cultures. Although a plethora of modern therapies are now available, they are hindered in their efficacy by having become entirely divorced from sacred reality. This work argues that it is necessary to restore this “science of the soul” by drawing on the perspective of non-Western wisdom traditions as understood since time immemorial. Examples are given of the fundamental differences that are found between modern psychology and the traditional psychologies of various religions, which also existed in the West prior to the Enlightenment era. Furthermore, this book will show how non-Western philosophy can help rehabilitate an authentically healing psychology in support of promoting sound mental health in our afflicted modern culture. Sacred psychologies, therefore, afford us the best opportunity to tackle the innumerable challenges that confront human beings today, such as trauma, mental illness, addiction, death, and the meaning of our lives.

Published: May 1, 2025

Book Contributors

Series


Section Chapter Authors
Introduction
Theoretical Presuppositions Samuel Bendeck Sotillos
Chapter 1
A Wayward Beginning Samuel Bendeck Sotillos
Chapter 2
Birth as Theophany Samuel Bendeck Sotillos
Chapter 3
The Metaphysics of Trauma Samuel Bendeck Sotillos
Chapter 4
The Enigma of Psychosis Samuel Bendeck Sotillos
Chapter 5
Addiction and Wholeness Samuel Bendeck Sotillos
Chapter 6
Death as Transformation Samuel Bendeck Sotillos
Conclusion
Rehabilitating Psychology Samuel Bendeck Sotillos

Reviews

Sacred Psychology is a very important work that situates psychology and mental health against a larger philosophical and ethical background. Not only does it chronicle the myriad of ways in which the sacred traditions of the world have elaborated on the inner dimensions of human beings, but also reminds us that the modern approach to mental health, however well intentioned, often fails to explain its own failures and successes even on its own terms. One of the strengths of this book lies in its ability to demonstrate that psychology is unavoidably metaphysical as it engages ultimate presuppositions about what is real, possible, and good—both from the point of view of the clinician and also in terms of the basic beliefs of the person seeking emotional, psychological, or spiritual help.
Caner Dagli, College of the Holy Cross

Sacred Psychology deals with the very foundation of “psychology” as a modern discipline and points to its flawed, materialistic paradigm. It shows convincingly how modern psychology is in need of an overhaul as our societies struggle with mental health crises such as loneliness, depression, and the loss of meaning. Drawing on the world’s wisdom traditions, this book charts new territory for rehabilitating the relationship between psychology, ethics, and metaphysics.
Muhammad U. Faruque, University of Cincinnati

Sacred psychology is a topic of critical importance today, and this book constitutes a major step towards improving our understanding of it. Dr. Sotillos has clearly the necessary knowledge, philosophical acumen, and clarity of expression to challenge modern psychology’s monopoly of the field, while impressing upon practicing psychologists and scholars of religion the fact that in traditional psychologies religion is not only a system of beliefs and practices but also a science of reality that addresses and illuminates knowledge of the soul (psyche) in light of the sacred.
Munjed M. Murad, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities