The Words of the Towe Family

God and Academia

By Sara Towe

In high school, I wanted to be a psychiatrist (after wanting to be a hairdresser, a fashion designer, and an interior decorator). Then I discovered that psychiatry required 7 years of medical training, plus training in psychiatry. I gave up the idea. But I didn't give up on a profession helping people. I switched to psychology. In college, my first psychology class was taught by a behaviorist (the ones who experiment on white mice). His reply to my questions ("You can take my advanced course when you're a senior") and his general approach convinced me that this person, and possibly this subject was not for me. Nevertheless, as a senior I took a graduate course in physiological psychology, and prepared to enter graduate school as a psychologist. Before I could attend, however, I joined the Unification Church as a full-time member. It was 18 years before I returned to academia. In the interim my interest had shifted to Sociology.

Psychologists versus Sociologists

Like Psychology, Sociology is concerned with the study of people. However, there is an obvious difference. Psychology takes the individual as the unit. It looks inward, seeking to answer the question, "What it is that makes the individual tick?" Psychologists are not as likely to be interested in groups of people except to understand the effect that other individuals have on a particular person. Sociology, on the other hand, looks at the social environment- from the small family to the local community, to the nation and the world. Some sociologists are comfortable with the extreme view of social determinism: they believe that the social environment makes you who you are. Many sociologists are not as concerned with what goes on inside the individual except as it relates to the entire social picture. In-between the psychologists and the sociologists are the social psychologists, who are interested in both what makes people tick, and the dynamics of the groups that all individuals are a part of. They accept the idea that the social environment influences the individual but many would not subscribe to an extreme form of social determinism. There are psychological social psychologists (those who identify themselves as psychologists), and sociological social psychologists (those who identify themselves as sociologists).

Sociologists commonly divide the areas of study within the field into macro and micro. Political sociologists and organizational theorists are examples of a macro focus-analyzing large groups of people and organizations, political influences, voting behavior, workings of organizations including governments, businesses, etc. Micro sociologists examine small groups, such as the family, and perhaps the community. They study such things as how people interact with each other, the meaning systems that are created, the development of power, prestige and status and how that affects interaction. I am a micro sociologist-and a social psychologist.

Psychology and Sociology as Cain and Abel

Aside from these simple distinctions, there are other important differences between psychology and sociology, differences that have led me to conclude that sociology, as a research field, is in the Abel position, in comparison to psychology. There is the immediate observation that psychologists are more likely to label Unification Church members as psychotic, and claim they are brainwashed. Sociologists, on the other hand, are not usually as quick to judge, and are more interested in the whole situation as a phenomena. Sociologists are more likely to appreciate the religious meaning, even if the organizational structure and forms of worship are not traditional. Psychologists, on the other hand, are quick to label someone like David Koresh a megalomaniac. (I say this from personal experience. I was taking a psychology course when the Waco tragedy occurred. I was aghast at the arm-chair analysis of the situation from a professor who otherwise seemed quite informed, and even spiritual!) John Biermans has given a good description of the psychological approach in his Odyssey of New Religions. And there are sociologists who have written about the Unification Church in a non-derogatory way.

But the distinctions go deeper. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that these surface differences arise because of the deep underlying differences. I contend that the two disciplines have different roots- they arise from different schools of European thought. To understand the significance of the difference, one must examine the philosophical atmosphere in Europe during the time of the Enlightenment. It was a time when the learned philosophers of France, Britain and Italy sought to be free of the authority of the church and tradition. (For a wonderful comparison of the atmosphere then and now, read Science is God by David Horrobin.) Jean-Jacques Rousseau spoke of the social contract-contending that every individual has a right to be governed only after he or she has given consent: government is a social contact, not an imposed rule upon unwilling subjects. The Philosphes advocated the "transcendental pretense"-the idea that all people everywhere are the same. This was meant to counteract the traditional view that some people, mainly the upper class educated and wealthy, are better than others, mainly the uneducated and poor serfs and servant class. Using St. Thomas Aquinas' argument that God's nature could be seen in nature, there was a move among the intellectuals to regard reason as the ultimate authority, rather than church officials. Further, there was a belief, shared by many of the same intellectuals, that nature could provide the same answers as church authorities. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment was a time of turning away from traditional society, traditional authority, traditional mannerisms; a time of embracing the rational, the individual, the scientific.

An important step along the way was Rene Descartes' ("I think, therefore I am") mind-body dualism. His description of the body as a mindless machine was quickly adopted by medical researchers, who were eager to unharnass the body from the mind, or soul-hence sever the practice of medicine from the authority of the Church. This separation of mind and body has dominated medical practice and thought ever since. In the area of mental health (I prefer the term SPSI-Social- Psychological-Spiritual Imbalance), this separation was furthered by medical practitioners who argued that the brain was where the problem of insanity lay-not the spirit. This again severed the practice of medicine-in this case, treatment of the insane-from the authority of the Church.

Freud and the Development of Psychology

Another important European thinker was Benedictus de Spinoza, who objected to Descartes' dualism. He thought that individual psychological events were caused by prior psychological events (an idea known today as psychophysiological parallelism). He saw self- preservation as the most basic law of nature, which expressed itself in appetite, desire, and basic emotions of joy and grief. In other words, for Spinoza, the mind is essentially reduced to bodily instincts. Spinoza's idea became popular throughout Europe, and two centuries later Sigmund Freud adopted it without realizing where it came from. Freud identified two bodily instincts, or two basic drives: sex and aggression. These two instincts, albeit modified by ego and superego, are the source of all psychic energy. Freud called these raw emotions primary processes, and contrasted them with the intellectual, or secondary processes. That is, emotions arise from the physical instincts, and are, thus, more animalistic, or more primary. Intellectual, rational activities are the product of the ego and superego, and arise as the individual develops a conscience.

Coincidentally, Freud's primary processes are almost exclusively those characteristics that traditionally are associated with women and identified as feminine (nurturing, emotive, spontaneous), whereas the secondary processes are those traditionally associated with men and masculinity (logical, orderly, planned, comprehensive).

Freud is one of the persons whose ideas I disagree with the most. To my way of thinking, he took all of spirit world outside the individual-the ideas and feelings that spontaneously come to an individual-and put it into the basement of the personal unconscious. Most people in the western world today, take the things they think and feel as their personal property, stemming from some deep, unconscious experience or memory. In short, Freud separated us from each other in our minds. He put us each in our own private cocoon, instead of letting us be free to participate in, and identify with, the larger social spirit, of which we are a part. Fortunately, I am not alone in my criticism of Freud, although I have not heard this particular critique elsewhere.

These then, are the roots of psychology. Although Freud became more interested in spiritual matters late in his life, he developed his theory along scientific, materialistic lines, incorporating the biases of his day. Of the latter, the most important are his derogatory view of women (as less cultured than men), and his idea that the more rational a person is, the more human he or she is. It is a view in which God and religion have very little place, and belief in such things tends to be seen as a weakness of character. (For a fascinating account of Freud's relationship to his Jewish heritage, I recommend David Bakan's book Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition.) Freud is one of the persons whose ideas I disagree with the most. To my way of thinking, he took all of spirit world outside the individual-the ideas and feelings that spontaneously come to an individual-and put it into the basement of the personal unconscious. Most people in the western world today, take the things they think and feel as their personal property, stemming from some deep, unconscious experience or memory. In short, Freud separated us from each other in our minds. He put us each in our own private cocoon, instead of letting us be free to participate in, and identify with, the larger social spirit, of which we are a part. Fortunately, I am not alone in my criticism of Freud, although I have not heard this particular critique elsewhere.

There are, to the best of my knowledge, four major divisions of psychology today: psychoanalytic psychology (Freud), behaviorism (I.P. Pavlov and J.B. Watson), humanistic psychology (Herbert Maslow) and analytical psychology (Carl Jung). Certainly not all psychologists adhere to Freud's ideas. There is much that is Principled in Maslow's work, and in Jung. There are aspects of behaviorism and psychoanalytic psychology that can be used in a positive way. But the influence of Freud's thought, not only on psychology, but on all of our western thought, cannot be understated. For example, it is hard to find a modern conception of the Self that does not include some form of the ego, the id, the super ego, the unconscious, or other of Freud's concepts.

Hegel and the Development of Sociology

All of the early Sociologists-Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Georg Simmel, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, Karl Marx (yes, we have to include him-at least for now)-were concerned with the direction that social development was taking. They were concerned that the rational, individualistic, materialistic tradition would create a society in which people no longer valued family and tradition, a society in which people would seek individual material wealth over loyalty to a community or social group, a society in which life was so fast paced we would become confused and disoriented, and other things. In other words, they were, at least in part, opposed to the developments of the Enlightenment.

All of them had a concept of the social that was very different from Enlightenment thinkers. In Durkheim, the social is very similar to the Jewish tradition of tribal identity and loyalty. (He came from a long line of Jewish Rabbis.) Durkheim and the others saw the individual as being highly influenced by the social group of which he or she was a member. They did not advocate social contract, as did Rousseau. Rather they sought to explain how it is that people came to develop societies, how they learned to live with one another, what the future would hold.

The concept of the social as a living entity that develops, lives, functions as a unit was borrowed from the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. Hegel objected to the Cartesian dualism of mind and body, and to the Kantian dualism of the noumen (the world as it is) and the phenomenon (the world as we experience it). Once divided, they can never be reunited, he said. (This has indeed proven to be the case for the objective and subjective approaches to understanding, as exemplified in the conflict between religion and science.) Hegel thought that the Enlightenment, for all its brilliance, left out spirituality, which he took to be the inner subject of human activity. Some have interpreted this to mean that ideas are the only reality for Hegel and the Idealists, but that is a simplistic reading of his philosophy. The whole of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit describes the development of a social collective. It is not just the psychology of single group that Hegel describes, but the interaction of the psychologies of several distinct groups, and their growth into a point of unity. It is the unity of humanity into a single human spirit. It is our knowledge of ourselves, thought thinking itself, spirit recognizing itself as spirit, "the confidence that humanity can be a harmonious whole" (Robert Solomon, In the Spirit of Hegel).

Hegel's concept of the individual embedded within society-from the intimate family relationships (he was one of the few European philosophers who even talked about family), to the larger community and state-stands in stark contrast to the ideas of the Enlightenment Philosphes who firmly rejected the church and tradition in favor of science and the transcendental pretense. Hegel had a vision of a dynamic society, growing and developing. Individuals played an important role, but their activity was not contractual, nor was the dynamic of society something that was visible. This complex vision of the inner workings of society is not linear. It cannot be grasped in Enlightenment terminology. It is a holistic approach, encompassing a living, moving entity in an un-machine-like manner. (Hegel's thought is very comfortable for those who have studied Divine Principle, because of the striking similarity between his dialectic and the four position foundation.)

The first and most important collective for Hegel is the family. Love is a special form of reciprocity which supersedes the social contract of individualism. Precisely because it is NOT contractual, it frees those whom it encompasses. The only idea of a marriage contract Hegel allows is a contract to go beyond contract. For Hegel, the family is the foundation of social life.

So, where did Hegel get his ideas, if not from the Enlightenment thinkers? According to some sources, many of his concepts were borrowed from the German mystics-Meister Eckhart, Jacob Boehme, Jan van Ruysbroeck, and others. The concept of growth, the concept of a social whole, the concept of consciousness developing to encompass more and more. So it appears that the thought of this giant European philosopher, whom I have argued elsewhere is really the granddaddy of sociology, reflected the richness of the religious tradition in contrast with that of the Enlightenment scientists, who rejected religion, often in favor of the ancient Greek culture. (Before you start praising Hegel, however, you should know that there are those- including myself-who concluded that he was an atheist! Society itself was God for Hegel, a view shared by most of the early sociologists.)

In light of this very different orientation of the two different disciplines, is there any wonder that they would view religion, and spirituality in quite different ways? Granted not all psychologists are strict Freudians, nor are all sociologists Hegelians (in fact, most of them are not sure how Hegel's philosophy differs from Marx). But the legacy of their thought is still felt. As for myself, I feel certain that I was guided to sociology. There are many theories and ideas that I disagree with in the field today, but it is much easier to present my study of spirituality to sociologists than it would be to present it to psychologists.


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