Říčan, Pavel
Psychologie náboženství (Psychology of religion).

Portál, Praha. 2002.

325 pages, 397.-Kč.

The first question we must ask in reviewing any book is; who is its audience? Here the author provides the answer. He addresses three classes of readers. First he dedicates it to those for whom religion is vital or who are seeking spiritual answers to existential questions. The second group is more analytical. They are the professional religionists, often the teachers of theology or philosophy. The third group is rather small in number. This group is primarily interested only in the psychology of religion. We get the impression the author is primarily addressing the second group, the professional religionists.

It is appropriate to ask who the author is. He has completed studies of protestant theology (his father headed the department of the history of Christianity at the protestant theological faculty in Prague). Instead of becoming a pastor he continued to study psychology and has become one of the premier psychologists in the Czech Republic. He is now employed in the Department of psychology of the Academy of Sciences, Prague.

What is this book about? There are 5 parts with 22 chapters in the book. It starts with an insightful review of the very complex religious and spiritual situation in the world today. It then addresses the embedding of the psychology of religion into contemporary psychology and theology. The author, however, is careful to explain psychological terms and the elements of psychology in a manner understandable to those who are not professional psychologists. The philosophical core of the book is in Chapter 4. Here he provides deep insights into the thoughts of three psychologists whom he considers to be the most important thinkers in the psychology of religion: S. Freud, C.G. Jung and S. Grof.

Freud is introduced for his concepts regarding the unconscious, the id-ego and superego structure of the personality and for his views on sexuality. Jung, however, is the central personality in this book. His concepts of consciousness, Ego", collective unconsciousness, archetypes, antinomie and individualization are first reviewed and then addressed more fully in the main chapter of the book; Psychology of Religion as Seen by Jung. Specifically he addresses the role of religion in modern life, the relation between religious and psychological applications to the problems of the human life, the crisis of present day Christian religiosity and the possibilities for its solution.

The last chapter is a review of special topics relative to the psychology of religion. Here 19 different kinds of religious experience are reviewed. Also discussed is the relation between religiosity and morality, the problem of sin and forgiveness and issues of conscience. Another chapter is dedicated to the biodromal or evolutionary aspect of religiousness. The final chapter is a review of psychopathology, psychotherapy and religion.

There are textbooks on the psychology of religion that give a review of experimental findings, either special - electing only a few topics - or providing a general review of all topics relevant to the psychology of religion. Neither is the case here. Říčans work can be characterized as a personal dialogue (per Martin Buber) between him and Jung. There are many things they have in common. Both came from a Christian family. Both studied many accesses to the basic problems of mankind and both continued in the Christian faith. It appears that the author is inclined to the third possibility Jung gives as a way of thinking: to directly experience our (collective) unconsciousness and to let it lead us on lifes way (p. 233). The book has value if only read for these chapters reviewing Jung´s concept of the psychology of religion.

The author considers the religious experience to be of paramount importance to the study of the psychology of religion. Starting with Heiler´s description of eight kinds of religious experiences the author defines 19 experiences - starting with respect and ending with the religious anger of Usama bin Ladin. The author does not elaborate on the details of these and other outstanding religious experiences, letting the interested reader research elsewhere.

The other main value of this book - according to this reviewer - is the attempt by the author to coordinate religion and psychology to address the basic endeavor of the human being - to understand himself and the situation he finds himself in. The endeavor is to define the respective roles of psychology and religion and define a harmonic coordination of these sciences.

This is the first book on the psychology of religion in the Czech language. The author is very knowledgeable and competent. The author has an excellent grasp of current literature on the subject and - of most importance - is able to engage in a productive dialogue with the most important 20th century psychologist C.G.Jung. In doing so he successfully develops a dialog between psychology and religion and promotes their future cooperation.

Prof. Jaro Křivohlavý
Nad Cementárnou 18
Praha - 4, Podolí
147 00
phone: +420/2/61213863  
e-mail: j.krivohlavy@volny.cz