SPI 507 Journeys of Faith: Religion, Spirituality and Humanistic Psychology

Faculty: Michael Brock, PhD, Psy.D. (Profile)


Humanistic psychology rose to prominence in America during the post-World War II years, reaching its zenith in the 1950s and 1960s and continuing to influence the national conversation—psychologically, spiritually, politically, and culturally—throughout the remaining decades of the twentieth century. During those years, it attracted a wide and diverse following, becoming a cultural phenomenon that affected everything from counseling (where it is often referred to as “person-centered therapy”) to education, parenting, religion, and business management. Its influence continues to be felt today, particularly in counseling—though often unrecognized and uncredited.

This course examines the role and contributions of the leading figures of the humanistic psychology movement with particular attention to their spiritual journeys, which developed alongside their newly emerging psychology in a unique, symbiotic relationship. The key players—Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Erich Fromm, and Rollo May—hailed from different sociocultural and religious backgrounds and followed dissimilar, though interconnecting, professional paths. They all rejected the orthodoxy of their religious inheritance in favor of a more humanistic approach and in the process discovered a renewed spirituality that, they hoped, would address the concerns of a world yearning for something to believe in. It was a spirituality that focused initially on the person, broadened to address both the interpersonal and the communal, and eventually provided the movement with a universal message that attracted the attention of religious and political figures at the highest levels.

While Maslow, Rogers, Fromm, and May were confronting the world’s problems through the lens of psychology and psychotherapy, other thinkers were approaching them from different, though equally humanistic, perspectives. Among those others, the evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley will receive special attention as one with particularly useful insights into the intersection of science and spirituality.

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