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Psychology and Spirituality: LS 5100

Winter Term 1999
Social Science 230/236

Instructor: Shannon Hodges, Ph.D.
Office: Student Counseling, 235 Behmler Hall
(320) 589-6060
Office Hours: 3-4:30 p.m. M-F, or by appt.


The study of human behavior and experience is perhaps the most fascination topic in the world. What aspect of the human condition could be more challenging and interesting than spiritual and mystical experience? Long before Sigmund Freud, in fact, since the beginning of human thought, people have wondered:

These philosophical questions have traditionally fallen within the realm of religion. Different religions have attempted to answer such questions, often employing various approaches to create meaningful answers. Psychologists studying religious practices attempt to make progress in answering such questions as:

Course Description

Naturally, as my background reflects training in mental health as opposed to theology, we will examine the readings and material from a psychological "lens." This course will be taught in seminar format as I intend to do very little lecturing, although I will always be happy to field questions or expand on given topics. Most of the class time will be spent in ongoing discussion of the readings. A background in psychology or religion or is helpful, though the most important factor is an enthusiastic, open minded approach in studying the common ground that exists between these two great disciplines. You will need remain vigilant in your reading in order to keep pace. You will also need to bring your text to class with you.

Note: This psychological-spiritual area is very broad. In a attempt to do justice to the field, I have included some very different readings and texts. Naturally, you will enjoy some of these resources more than others.

Setting the tone: The Contemplative Phase

Because our study is a psychological examination of contemplative and often esoteric matters of both religious practice and ritual, we will begin each class by observing 5 minutes of silence. This is not a religious exercise, though numerous religions include silence as part of their approach (including Christianity, Judaism, etc.). This allows us to clear our minds from our busy day and prepare our focus for the process at hand. Should you arrive to class after the period of silence has begun, I would ask that you enter quietly or simply wait outside the door.

If you feel this exercise is in any way disrespectful to your own spiritual orientation, you may leave the room during this time.


I am asking you to keep a journal for this class. This is not a personal diary, but rather a place to work out your thoughts and record questions and observations related to the readings, class discussion, and synthesis of your own thoughts and insights. Diligent journaling will make a huge difference in the quality of our class time. The Journal also provides the format for you to focus your thoughts, feelings and insights ("A-ha's!" as Jung says) on the readings, class discussions and overall experience in the class. I would like you to keep the Journal in a weekly format, to be handed in at the end of the term.

Note: Write in the journal only what you feel comfortable disclosing. To put thoughts into the journal invariably invites comment (I will not be overly critical, it's just that my experience lends me to understand the sensitivity with regards to journaling.). If taken seriously, the journal may possibly be the most depth-oriented, important exercise of the entire course.


There will be no formal exams as such. While multiple choice or essay tests provide a tangible format for grading, I find the take home essays and reaction paper's create a more fertile environment for integration of the subject matter, particularly in a course such as this where we attempt to make sense of esoteric concepts. The requirements are as follows:


While I am certainly no disciplinarian, certain norms of established behavior will help us foster both trust and creativity:

* Remember

The Cardinal guide on the above is: show respect, be prepared, stay active, be present, be patient, work to the best of your ability, understand that other will occasionally have different viewpoints from you, come to each class with an open, non defensive approach.

* Reading

There is a lot of reading required for this class. Hang in there; it's worth it. I will also attempt to get a filmed interview (BBC's Interview with Carl Jung) to provide some diversion.

* Text

All Texts will be available in the UMM Bookstore or I will hand out in class

* In Addition

In an effort to broaden perspectives, I am encouraging (not requiring) each of you to attend a religious community that differs from your own. The intention is not to encourage you to be more religious (such is an individual choice) but simply to imagine what such different practices mean in terms of practices and holidays, life meaning, and how the particular religious orientation would impact a follower in daily life. While we are limited to Christian religious branches in our area, those of you familiar with the Twin Cities or another urban area (Fargo and St. Cloud) might contact a Mosque, Synagogue, Buddhist Temple, etc.. You could also use this experience as an opportunity for one of your reaction papers and certainly as prime journaling material.

Good luck. Let's have an engaging, depth-oriented class!

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