Psycho-religious therapy

Who is a neurotic?
The man who makes castles in heavens!
Who is a psychotic?
The man who lives in those castles!
Who is a Psychiatrist?
The man who collects rent regularly from him![1]

(Who is a psycho-religious therapist? The religious leader who collect tithe regularly from the clients!)


Theologians and psychologists have often been perceived as in conflict over their views as to the role of faith or religion in life. Some psychologists[1] felt that religion was the cause of neurosis. Some classified religion as mass delusions. Theologians felt that psychologists reduced God to a mere psychological phenomenon. In this situation an urge for a combined study of psychology and religion is indispensable and it is in this context psycho-religious therapy is relevant. The study of the relationship between religion and health has grown substantially in the past decade. There is little doubt that religion plays an important role in many people’s lives and that this has an impact on their health. The relationship between religion and health care has cycled between cooperation and antagonism throughout history. Some of the most advanced civilization of ancient times, Indus Valley, Chinese, Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Persian equates physical illness with evil spirit and demonic possessions and treatment was aimed at banishing these spirits. Religion is undeniably one of the earliest and most universal activities of the human mind, personal concern, which is a sociological and historical phenomenon. The ‘complete human’ being is the one who share the pain, sadness, joy and understand another individual in the society in other word intelligence Quotient (IQ) plus Emotional quotient (EQ) and Spiritual quotient (SQ).[2] In this context the study of psychology and religion and the importance of psycho-religious therapy is necessary for the modern dynamic world. 

Religion and Psychology: Relationship 

The turning point in the comparison of east and west lies in the relationship between psychology and religion in the two cultures. Eastern psychologies are enviably and in their own ways religious for they are concerned with bridging the gap between the phenomenal and temporal, on the one hand and the ultimate contexts of life on the other. In the east where psychology is held in the form of religion. Western psychologies are fundamentally secular and this worldly. Western psychologies assume that the world as it appears is the proper human context and humanity’s proper ends is within it.
Religion has become so popular and all over the world people gets themselves involved in some kind of religion, directly or indirectly. There are thousands of people who criticises religion and would say that religion is nothing but the opium of the people. Karl Marx made the irreligious criticism, saying man makes religion, religion does not make man. It seems that Marx was very negative, drastic and in extremist in his approach to religion.[3] The word religion comes from the Latin word ‘religare’ meaning to blind. The corresponding Sanskrit is ‘dhr’ or dharma which means laws or rules to hold together. This means that religion from the very beginning has been described as unifying factor. The term religion is such a broad term no single definition can exhaust its implications. Others observes derisive terms to religion like, illusion, opiate (Marx) Neurosis[4] (Freud).[5] Erich Formm called neurosis a private form of religion, whereas Watson considers religion as the general laziness of mankind. Worse is B. Russell’s perception that religion is a disease born of fear and a source of untold misery to the human race.[6] Immanuel Kant said that religion is the recognition of all our duties as divine commands. Max Muller the German scholar said religion consists in the perception of the infinite under such manifestations as are able to influence the moral character of man.[7] Schleiermacher, religion has been defined in terms of the emotions. He said that the essence of the religions emotions consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence’.[8]
William James [9] the psychologist, Religion therefore, as I now ask you arbitrarily to take it, shall mean for us feeling, acts, and experience of individual man in their solitude, as far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider divine.[10] Carl Jung is more sympathetic to religion and more concerned about the positive appreciation of religious symbolism which he called the archetype or collective unconscious. But on the whole religion plays an important part in the society by giving the solution to the problems and help to bear the pain uncomplainingly. There are various approaches to religions in studying about them, such as historical, comparative and psychological methods. How religion function at a given period of time. In the comparative approach we try to look for commonness and differences.
 Many mental and emotional illnesses are of course comes due to natural causes such as overwork, tension, fatigue, malnutrition, organic disease etc. Psychosomatic illness is a term currently used to describe those disorders of human being which are considers being especially due to complex mind, soul (Psyche) body (Soma), spirit interactions including reaction to stress.[11] Mental distress takes many forms, for example depression, anxiety, panic attacks, O C D (Obsessive Compulsive disorder), Phobia, Manic depression (bipolar disorder), Schizophrenia, etc.

Mental illness and psycho-religious therapy

The idea that human personality can be possessed by demons is widely rejected today by the educated westerner as an outworn superstition. The evidences and symptoms which to the easterner of olden days pointed to demon possession are either dismissed as unnatural, or explained in terms of nervous or hysterical illness. The modern wo/men have no place for demons, and when s/he reads, in a passage in St. Mark Gospel to which, that a demon dashed him down and he foamed and grinded his teeth,[12] the modern wo/men murmurs, epilepsy.[13]
The term demon possession apparently originated with the Jewish historian Floavious Joseph then passed into ecclesiastical language.[14] Demon is derived from the Greek noun ‘diamon’ which is used to denote Satan. The victims of evils are said to be demonized. They are subject to periodic attacks and derange them physically and mentally during the apprehension. When the persons shadow is entirely repressed and not recognized, the person is vulnerable to serious contamination by the archetype[15] of personal unconscious/evil, where the person is believed to be possessed by the devil. It is within the bounds of the responsibility of a person to recognize the relative evil in his own nature, but is rare and shattering experience for him.[16] When the moral law of God is persistently and flagrantly disregarded, demon influence may merge into demon subjection. The sinner then becomes the slave of the demon.[17] The demons can cause physical ailments such as dumbness (Mat: 9:32), blindness (Mat:12:22), and various other defects and deformities (Luk: 13:11-17). When the demonic spirit gain mastery over the victims they start screaming, blaspheming, cursing and show tremendous physical strength. Perhaps the most terrible power of the demons is to derange the mind by upsetting the nervous system thus they many be afflicted with psychosomatic disease. Changes in the personality occur like intelligence, character, appearance and manner. Physical changes like falling, clouding of consciousness, anesthesia to pain, changed voice and mental changes like understanding the glossolalia, abnormality, psychic and occult powers, telepathy and prediction etc. are some of the symptoms to identify demon possession.    
Some critiques, like psychologists, Psychiatrist, clinical psychotherapist, dismiss demon possession with theories of accommodation or hallucination. They consider demon possession a pure hallucination or psychological delusion. But all such views fail to meet the issue. Nor can present day Para-psychologists and psychiatrists, who refuse to recognize evil super naturalism in the phenomena of demon possession, either can’t explain it or deal adequately with it.   
          Mental illness may be because of psychological or some may be because of demonic. A greater number of people assume that psychology has made a successful take over of any religious understanding of man. In medicine demon possession is suggested that the label epileptic and but its true label demonic. There are various illness that are affected by demonic attack and only few people are able to identify that.
Epilepsy is an ill defined group of disorders characterized by fits or capture. The emotional stability and security which the victims may or may not experience influence in some degree the frequency of such fits. Further more the social stigma still attached to epilepsy and Jung claims that it is a form of hysteria.[18] Idiopathic[19] epilepsy modern medicine says no cure or there is no method of treatment which will cure immediately and permanently.[20] The stage of muscular jerking is apparent in all descriptions, and causes writhing, grinding of teeth and forming at the mouth. As soon the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsion, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth (Mark: 9:20). Jesus inquires about the history of the illness and commanding the spirit to come out of the boy and never enter him again. In this case we see that epilepsy is not cured by medicine and demonic spirit which works against wholeness and healing was chased by Jesus.[21]
The person who possessed by the demon may have multiple personality (Eg. Legion affected personality). Hysterical phenomena are more common in underdeveloped and less educated parts of the world. Possessions were seen more often among Hindus, but hysterical conversion reactions were common to all communities, particularly among women of lowered socio-economic class. Voluntary possession by spirit is claimed to be the power behind some of the traditional healers. Involuntary possession is one way of expressing distress. Psychiatrist Scot Peck for example believe in demon possession and exorcism.[22] All the illness may not be due to psychological or biological reasons but could be explained as demonic possession. In such case the problems must be analysed by the psychologist and the spiritual leader.       

Psycho-religious therapy

Many physicians and psychologist says that, they can heal all the sickness, but there are numerous cases they become helpless and referred to religious prayers to get rid of their ailments. Many poor patients are simply consumes a heavy dose of medicine without any medical causes.
On the other hand in the religious therapy both the confessor and the therapist act in well defined roles as figure of authority. The cult and charismatic leaders who claim to be the super healers maintain pseudo- spirituality.
The following steps are formulated in the psycho-religious therapy which will work within the religious setting. The problem story of the client, background information dealing with the spiritual, metal, emotional relationship between members of the family, social position of the family heredity, the clients childhood habits, training, sources of happiness, client chosen or compelled occupation and ambitions, the clients present physical condition as per doctors report such and any abnormality, use of alcohol, heart condition, the clients mental conditions, per psychiatrists report like nervousness, moods, fears, tensions etc., the clients religious life like prayer life, guilt feeling, religious fears, hell, sin etc., the clients sexual life such as masturbation, menstruation history, pre-marital and extra marital sex, perception about sex, sex fantasies, abortions, miscarriages, sadism, satisfaction etc., the clients social and emotional life such as social service, optimistic, contented, violent, quarrelsome, shy, reserved, sensitive, timid, suspicious, strict, fussy, disciplined, decisive, tired without reason, hysterical outbursts etc., and the clients unconscious life such as sleeping duration, drugs, nightmares, sleepwalking, weeping, laughing, dreams, obsessive acts etc.[23]
Prayer is the first element in the healing ministry because it is an expression of invitation to communion with God whom we believe is a healing God. Confession will lead to repentance, forgiveness and absolution. The word catharsis comes from the Greek word ‘Kathartikon’ meaning to clean out. Psychiatrists even admit the benefit of confession. Exorcism is the process of expelling evil spirits from persons or places by the name of Jesus in Christian church. Laying on of hands make a human touch possible which obviously dictate compassion and love. Anointing with oil was another biblical means to elucidated grace.
Possible method to implement psycho-religious therapy is by traditional prayer, confession, exorcism, blessing through laying on of hands, showering holy water, encouragement of arranging religious activities and participating in religious festivals, pilgrimage, religious exercises, visiting saints as special healers, religious Counseling for the management of psychiatric illnesses, and medical attentions by the pharmacological institutes are some of the ways.     

Earlier many psychologists believed that religions have nothing to do with science and psychology. Human being are basically God centered and now more research takes place on the involvement of religion for the health and wholeness of the individual. It is a complicated machine and the creator knows how to handle it more correctly than any one else. Bible teach us about demonic possession and Jesus did exorcism, healed demon possessed, cast out legion and everything that confesses there is no demon is a denial of work of God and the ministry of Holy Spirit. The primary difference between psycho-religious therapy and other humanistic therapy is the use of religious resources for the psychotherapy and Jesus work as a miracle worker. 

Tirkey, Christopher Augustus Bixel, Primal Religion, (Delhi: ISPCK, 1998).
Emdersheim, Alfred, The Life and times of Jesus the Messiah (NY: Green &Co, 1940).
Formm, Erich, Psychoanalysis and Religion (USA: Yale University Press, 1950).
Gamvas, Nicholas V., The psychology of confession and the orthodox church (…..: light and life,1989).
Hunter, Rodney J., (Gen.Ed) Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counselling (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996) CD Rom.
Padamaddan, Justin P., “NallaManushravan SQ,” (Mal), Prema Mammen Mathew (Ed. In chief), Vanitha, Weekly, No.34, (12 August, 2008): Kottayam: Malayala Mannorama Press and MM Publications, P.17-18. (Kottayam: Malayala Mannorama Press and MM Publications).
Richards, John, But Deliver us from evil (London: Darton Longman and Todd,1974).
Unger, Merrill F., Demons in the World Today (England: Tyndale House Pub., 1976).
Weaterhead, Leslie D., Psychology, Religion and Healing (Britain: Richard Clay & Comp., 1955). IST 22.08.08/7.30pm. IST 22.08.08/7.30pm.

[1] Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) called religion as collective neurosis. He was the founder of psychoanalysis pursued residency training in psychiatry, internal medicine, and neurology. Gradually, from 1889 to 1895, Freud’s psychotherapeutic technique evolved from hypnotic suggestion through hypnotic catharsis to free association in waking consciousness. Through his impact on psychoanalysis, dynamic psychiatry, social psychology, and psychotherapeutic approaches in general, Freud remains the most influential psychologist of modern time. C. Brenner, An Elementary Textbook of psychoanalysis, rev. ed., (1973). S. Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, SE, 15, 16 (1915-1916); Civilization and Its Discontents SE, 21 (1930) pp. 64-145. Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counselling, p.445,  p.446 CD Rom.
[2] Justin P. Padamaddan, “NallaManushravan SQ,” (Mal), Prema Mammen Mathew (Ed. In chief), Vanitha, Weekly, No.34, (12 August, 2008): Kottayam: Malayala Mannorama Press and MM Publications, P.17-18. (Kottayam: Malayala Mannorama Press and MM Publications).
[3] Christopher Augustus Bixel Tirkey, Primal Religion, (Delhi: ISPCK, 1998), p.1.
[4] From the fantasy religious structure from which a man is set free if he is to grow to maturity. He views the idea of God as being a version of the Father Image, and religious belief as at bottom infantile and neurotic. Authoritarian religion has its origin in human’s helplessness in confronting the forces of nature outside and the instructive forces within himself. Freud assumes that a religious belief is on the wane he is forced to assume that the continued connection of religion and ethics will lead to the destruction of our moral values. 
[5] Christopher Augustus Bixel Tirkey, p.12-13.
[6] Christopher Augustus Bixel Tirkey, p.13.
[7] Christopher Augustus Bixel Tirkey, p.14.
[8] Christopher Augustus Bixel Tirkey, p.13-14.
[9] William James (1842-1910) an American philosopher and psychologist became an advocate of philosophical pragmatism and functional psychology. Religion was a central concern to a number of the founders of scientific psychology. E. B. Holifield, “James, William (1842-1910)”, Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counselling, p.598.
[10] Christopher Augustus Bixel Tirkey, p.14.
[11] Erich Formm, Psychoanalysis and Religion (USA: Yale University Press, 1950), p.65.
[12] Mar 9:18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. 

Luk 9:39 And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him.
[13] Leslie D. Weaterhead. Psychology, Religion and Healing (Brintain: Richard Clay & Comp., 1955),P.96.
[14] Alfred Emdersheim, The Life and times of Jesus the Messiah (NY: Green &Co, 1940), p.479.
[15] Archetypes, The Collective Unconscious (Objective Psyche), Carl Jung faced extraordinary difficulty when he introduced the concept of the collective unconscious to the scholarly world. The understanding of the archetype is central to the concept of myth, symbol, the structure of the psyche, and its operation. One way of describing an archetype is a pattern of psychic energy, a system of readiness for action. It is at the same time an image, an emotion that is found universally in each human being, a pattern of energy shared by each individual, in every generation. How this pattern of energy expresses itself, that is, the form or shape it assumes, varies from place to place and from era to era. The core of the archetypal pattern, however, remains inviolate. Most frequently, people experience the archetypes as images in dreams, fantasies, fairytales, myths, and certain collective rituals. Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, p.26
[16] Nicholas V. Gamvas, The psychology of confession and the orthodox church (…..: light and life,1989),P.99.
[17] Merrill F. Unger, Demons in the World Today (England: Tyndale House Pub., 1976), P.30.
[18] Lesslie D. Weaterhead, P.99.
[19]  A disease: not consequent on or symptomatic of another disease; having no known cause.
[20] Premonitory stage in which many patients are aware of the impeding attack and probably refereed to by the description of dumbness (Mark:9:25). A collapse into unconscious is described as throws him to the ground. The stage of muscular rigidity is of so short duration that it is not surprising that it is not explicitly mentioned, although the sudden expulsion of air through the narrowed vocal chords which muscular spasm creates is noted in the sudden cry of Luke:9:39).
[21] John Richards, But Deliver us from evil (London: Darton Longman and Todd,1974) P.101.
[22] John Richards, P.107.
Binu B. Peniel
2013 (C)


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