Fragments of Truth

Christopher G. White

in Unsettled Minds

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780520256798
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942721 | DOI:
Fragments of Truth

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This chapter examines the ambivalence of psychologists who, while wanting to believe in God and the human spirit, also built a science of the self on merely physiological principles. It focuses in particular on the lives and ideas of two key American psychologists—G. Stanley Hall and William James—and points to the ways they tried to control the meanings of psychology and harmonize it with religious commitments. That they were successful is clear from the many American religious figures who embraced their psychological notions as ways of more precisely understanding self-culture, the proper emotions of faith, and the stages of personal, spiritual transformation. Still, though theologians and lay believers embraced the new science as a way to understand spiritual development with scientific exactitude, the new psychology was a sharp edge tool. It could aid faith or take it away. Religious Americans battled constantly to control the meanings of a science that reduced the self to physiological processes.

Keywords: psychologists; G. Stanley Hall; William James; faith; religious Americans; science; spiritual development

Chapter.  15548 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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