The term psychology has two roots, psyche and logia. Although today we define the psyche as mind, its original meaning was soul.
This started to change when the great philosophers of Ancient Greece, began to admit that they had lost sight of the mystical origins behind their philosophies. Rather than pondering the now unfathomable mysteries of the universe and of human existence, thinkers had nowhere to turn but outside, into an intellectual, analytical, quantifiable and therefore finite, worldview. Logia means ‘the study of’. So, until relatively recently, psychology was the study of the soul.
Now that we have established the original and mystical meaning of the word psychology, we can identify that the earliest traces of human spiritual beliefs can be found around 30,000 years ago in the Bhimbetka Rock structures in India. Worldwide, in both East and West, various types of shamanism were the predominant worldviews. These words evoke images of spirits and a sacred worldview of a primitive nature. Although Ancient Shamanism has evolved and still exists in some cultures, with the passing of time and the evolution of man’s intellectual capacity, our worldview also evolved.
“In the mid-1700s the meaning of psyche became ever more closely synonymous with mind…” As psychology emerged as a discrete science, “religion too was edged out of mainstream Western psychology. While psychology filed for divorce from religion, religion did not dismiss psychology. Christianity developed pastoral and Biblical counseling in response to psychology’s secularity. Judaism and Islam, especially Sufism have also remained open to psychology, personal development, modern self-help approaches and the idea of cultivating self-knowledge.
“…Since time immemorial, mystical worldviews have been giving us a mind-over-matter perspective, implicating our responsibility for our states of mind as well as acknowledging the many environmental and subtle factors at play. And then science began telling us that we are simply mechanisms falling prey to our brain chemistry.
Implicit in the earlier, holistic schools of thought was our responsibility for that part of our being, mind, and life over which we have the power to influence. We have, more or less, the ability to control or shape our environment depending on the situation. The ultimate responsibility for our attitude and mindset is in our hands. With the dawning of the age of science, we lose that which is most sacred to us: our power and responsibility to evolve. This shift in responsibility has personal, societal and spiritual implications.”
Tracing back to the mystical origins of psychology in both the East and West, Psychology in the Light of the East invites an examination and a re-integration of the sacred into our understanding of psychology. For, only when psychology can address the full range of human experience and potential, from the most mundane to the most mystical, can it start to help us truly heal, become whole and engage in wholesome and meaningful lifestyles.
From: Margot Borden, (2017) Psychology in the Light of the East, Rowman & Littlefield, NY, Chapter 1, The Origins of Western Psychology. For coaching that will help you find the inner and outer resources you need to find fulfillment and meaning, contact Margot Borden today.