- Abstract x
- Intro x
- Results and discussion
- The existential conditions
- In. Allocative realities
- II. Constitutional realities
- III. Vertical realities
- IV. Horizontal realities
- V. Capacitive realities
- WE. Declinative realities
- VII. Terminal realities
- Concluding discussion
- Method discussion
- End words
- The existential conditions
Degree project from Stockholm University, Department of Psychology:
At the same time as interest in traditional religion has waned in the Western world, there has been a growth of a holistic, individualistic and progressively optimistic spirituality, so-called new age or new age. Psychological research has shown that followers of this spirituality at the group level have a profile that possibly correlates with ill health. The purpose of this study was to investigate how the adherents approached the existential conditions of man, as these can be formulated based on psychoanalysis. Interviews with 11 supporters were conducted in the autumn of 2009. The analysis showed that the informants largely rejected these conditions or limitations, which can be interpreted in the same direction as previous research results. In addition to a possible individual disposition, an influence based on the thought system itself is proposed to be a not insignificant factor in these results. Models for how to differentiate between both type of engagement and different kinds of spiritualities are sketched.
1 A big thank you to my supervisor Björn Edlund and to the eleven respondents who made the survey possible through their generous participation.
Several independent studies in recent years have been able to show that the Swede harbors a multitude of notions of existence that science cannot prove. The acceptance or interest in things such as reincarnation, notice, astrology, telepathy and communication with deceased relatives is great (Boström, 2008, 16 July; Centre for Contemporary Analysis, 2009, February; Sjödin, 2002). The results are similar in other Western countries, such as the UNITED STATES (Harris Interactive, 2013, December) and the United Kingdom (Ipsos MORI, 2012).
While several of the beliefs and phenomena addressed in these surveys overlap with what is commonly called superstition and should have been able to coexist with the long-dominant religion, reincarnation is, for example, a comparatively exotic notion in a Christian cultural circle. In the studies mentioned above, the idea that the individual should be reborn in a new physical body is supported by about one in four respondents. Hammer (2004) writes that "In just forty years, reincarnation has gone from being a view spread among the members of some Theosophical and occult circles to becoming one of the most widely embraced religious beliefs of our time." 203).
It is probably possible to affirm the claims in these surveys with varying degrees of seriousness, conviction or staining. For some, such thoughts form part of a more or less coherent philosophy of life, with which they identify and are prepared to argue, while for others they do not have the same central meaning. Geels and Wikström (2006) propose a division into customers, seekers and core troops, the latter of which more closely embrace certain notions such as a well-thought-out worldview. When the idea of reincarnation and the like are part of a coherent thought system, it touches on what is commonly called the new age and parts of the so-called newness (Frisk, 1998). There are divided opinions on how this area should be defined or named. Frisk (2007b) suggests that researchers start from scratch and come up with statistical means to the appropriate categories.
In this study, "newness", "the new spirituality", "new age", with several terms, are used synonymously. What is meant is a largely disorganized spirituality with an individualistic, progressive view of reincarnation and karma, as well as with a notion that man is gradually evolving towards emotional and cognitive perfection.
Hammer (2004) writes that the religious or spiritual influences can be traced back to the romanticism that was a counter-movement to the Enlightenment. Mesmerism, romantic pantheism, spiritism and occultism are phenomena from that epoch that have come to contribute in various ways to this modern spirituality. Sjödin (2002) also highlights the connection to romanticism in the early 19th century. Kärfve (1998) argues that the New Age has even captured or managed ideas that go back to Gnosticism, a movement that was alive at the time of the rise of Christianity.
Common (Healthy, 2007a; Rotstein, 1997; Wikström, 1998) is, however, to place the starting point for the new age until the late 1960s and early 1970s. Various religious and psychological currents were then combined with the utopian and socially critical youth movement that has emerged on the American West Coast, including the struggle for black rights, hippie culture, opposition to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and a questioning of the ideals that existed for family formation. The era was portrayed in Milos Forman's film "Hair" (Butler, Greenhut, Persky &. Forman, 1979). The title of the song "Age of Aquarius" that opens the film refers to the astrological notion that humanity is on the threshold of the age of Aquarius. Ferguson (1982, referenced in Wikström, 2008) believes that two thousand years of war and darkness will then come to an end and that an equally long period of peace and love awaits.
An often used metaphor to describe the new age is that this would be like a smorgasbord from which those interested pick up their own worldview (Granqvist & Hagekull, 2001; Vitz, 1977; Wikström, 1998). The new spirituality may be syncretic, that is, it has drawn influences from many different directions, but is it formless or impossible to define? To investigate the degree of homogeneity, Granqvist and Hagekull (2001) developed the New Age Orientation Scale (NAOS) which contained some twenty claims about thoughts and practices that the researchers perceived were represented in this field, including: "People live more than one life, so that when they die they will be reborn some time in another body (reincarnation)"; "I believe that a person's deeds are stored in his and her 'karma'", and "Spirituality to me is above all about realizing my true nature or becoming one with cosmos".
The study included both high school students from the higher classes, young people from different Christian youth organizations and people recruited from places in Stockholm with activities of a New Age nature. The responses were treated statistically using factor analysis, which gave a one-dimensional result. If the respondent supported one of the claims, it was likely that he or she also agreed with the others.
Granqvist and Hagekull (2001) were able to show that there was a great consensus on the claims they presented. In other words, a common worldview. Did the supporters share something more besides certain interests and a collection of ideas about how life worked?
In the same study (Granqvist &. Hagekull, 2001), the above questionnaire was combined with a survey based on attachment theory. The researchers wanted to see if people who were positive about the New Age also excelled in so-called attachment patterns. The hypothesis was that the test subjects would exhibit a higher degree of so-called "uncertain attachment", indicating that the individual experienced the early, close relationships in life as unsafe. The results of this part of the study also gave it a positive result. People who scored high on the NAOS scale stood out for such an "unsafe" attachment pattern. When comparing (Granqvist, Ivarsson, Broberg &. Hagekull, 2007) with people who had a traditional religious belief, they have rather shown a "safe" connection. At the group level, there seems to be something that unites new people interested even on a deeper level. In the latter survey, those with high scores on NAOS were judged to have experienced more of things like rejection and role reversals while growing up than those who scored low.
The group of new entrants has also been examined with various cognitive and personality tests. For example, the researchers have investigated such things as tendency to magical thinking, thin-walledness and cognitive loseness (Farias, Claridge &lalljee, 2005). Here, too, people with a recent interest have shown a common and divergent profile compared to the control groups (often traditionally religious and non-religious). All of these variables are in one way or another about an elevated sensitivity or associative/perceptual mobility. In a survey by Farias and Lalljee (2006, referenced in Farias &granqvist, 2007), the test participants were asked to comment on some stories with everyday events based on the question: "How would you interpret this situation?" For example, the stories could describe a meeting with a person who felt very familiar. Instead of suggesting that it was someone the test subject might have encountered in the store some day, or even that "God wanted us to meet," people with a new orientation often explained situations like this using paranormal or supernatural arguments: "Our souls have probably met before," or "We have the same energies that make us feel drawn to each other.". In an experiment by Farias et al. (2005) the test subjects were allowed to sit in front of a computer screen in a dimly lit room. On the screen, 100 dots were projected, which shifted at high speed at random for ten minutes. The instruction was that motifs would be interspersed with random images and that the test subjects would tell when something came to be recognized. Newly oriented saw significantly more motifs (e.g. animal motifs, dancing people and angels) than the other groups. People with a traditional religious orientation saw no more than average.
People with a new interest are thus not only united by certain thoughts or relationship patterns, but they also seem to share a cognitive orientation that makes them seek meaningful connections between seemingly distant and unrelated things and events Farias and Granqvist (2007) believes that this psychological tendency is also behind these individuals changing groups and activities often without forging close ties, unlike people with a traditional religious belief who more often settle in a congregation. In another study (Farias &. Lalljee, 2005), it was concluded that individuals with a new-age orientation are characterized by what the researchers chose to call "holistic individualism". This represents a combination of two tendencies that otherwise do not usually occur in the same person, namely an individualistic orientation, which is about self-realization and striving towards one's own goals, rather than as part of a group, while expressing universalist ideals of solidarity, equality, not wanting to compete, but even wanting to go up into a greater unity. In addition, the new test subjects had a peculiar way of describing themselves. When asked "Who am I?" they gave abstract answers. Individuals with a collectivist orientation usually, asked to describe themselves, do this with judgments that in a concrete way relate to their social reality (for example, "I am a daughter" or "I am a baker"), while those with a more individualistic orientation use comparatively more abstract judgments about themselves (for example, "I am cheerful"). The newly interested described themselves with expressions such as "I am a bridge", "I am united" or "I am an illusion".
The new spirituality differs from traditional religion also in that it often lacks a personal God with whom the individual can have a relationship, as well as seek comfort and understanding in when needed (Granqvist, 2014). People with a secure connection take over their parents' religion to a greater extent and they then pass on their good experiences in the image of God. Although these individuals choose a different religion than their parents, they tend to find a loving God there. People who embrace a new worldview, with an impersonal or absent deity, are also assumed to be affected by their earliest experiences. Granqvist (2014) emphasizes how God is used as a symbolic attachment object by those with a secure connection in a way that is deeper than just being a conscious notion. In subliminal experiments, it has been possible to demonstrate that these individuals have access to a "safe harbor" within them that they automatically seek support from in a stressful situation.
For Sigmund Freud, religion was more or less unambiguously a bad solution. People's religiosity, he explained, as a regression back to a time in life that had been simpler. By projecting an almighty Father into space, life became more bearable and the believer was able to reswerving some of his own responsibility and relieving his existential anguish. Religion was to him (Freud, 1927/2008) "a treasure of conceptions born of the need to make human helplessness bearable, based on material of memories of childhood helplessness, one's own and that of mankind." 362). The abandonment of religion was seen by Freud as an "upbringing to reality":
Certainly, man will then find himself in a difficult situation; she is compelled to acknowledge all her helplessness, her insignificance in the world's vortex, as she is no longer the center of creation, no longer subject to the tender ministry of benevolent providence. She will find herself in the same situation as the child who left the father's house, where it was so warm and pleasant. But infantilism is there to be overcome, isn't it? Man cannot forever remain a child, he must finally venture out into the "hostile life" (Freud, 1927/2008, p. 390).
After Freud, there have been psychoanalysts who have been more conciliatory to religion. Winnicott (1971) talks about the child's middle ground where inner and outer reality can meet at best, and he writes that this important sphere is then "maintained throughout life in the intense experience associated with art and religion, an imaginative way of life and creative scientific work" (p. 37). If the new spirituality specifically from a psychoanalytic or psychodynamic perspective is not so much written. Wikström (1998) writes that the new age and the like are possibly the ideal religion for a "borderline society". Faber (1996) highlights and exemplifies what he perceives as infantile features of this new spirituality and his analysis reminds a great deal of how Freud characterized religion in his day.
According to psychoanalysis, the little child is uploaded by his parents or guardians and, in happiest cases, gets a pleasant and privileged start in life: "His Majesty the Baby", Freud (1914/2003, p. 92) this existence. This, together with its limited resources in many respects, means that for a period of time the child will not have to face the grim realities, but will be allowed to be in a state of infantile omnipotence. However, at some point during his journey towards adulthood, the individual must abandon, tone down or at least supplement these infantile and, in relation to his real capacity and the expectations of the outside world, unrealistic fantasies or desires. In psychoanalysis, a favorable resolution of this conflict is seen as the very gateway to a balanced and healthy adulthood (Freud 1996b). This challenge, for example, werbart (2000) has described in a number of points that can be seen as a summary of the predicaments of human life. He writes that we are "irretrievably doomed to live as separate 'in-dividuals', dependent on each other, divided into two sexes and several generations, vulnerable and mortal" (s. 37).
The mental operations called defense mechanisms fill a buffer function for the individual. According to psychoanalytic theory, these are used to keep unpleasant impulses or insights away from consciousness and protect against anxiety. The defense mechanisms are divided hierarchically from primary/immature to secondary/mature depending on how great restrictions or distortions these entail for self-image and perception of the world around them and also on the periods in development when they are natural. Immature defenses make life more bearable by putting the individual's problems to others and other things "out there".
Psychoanalysis speaks of regression of various kinds. What is common is that the individual then falls back on a type of experience or a way of relating to the environment and the duties or conditions of life that, with respect to the individual's chronological age, actually belong to a passed stage of development. Not infrequently, the word is used with a negative meaning, but regression also plays a natural and life-promoting role in our lives, for example in infatuation, play and creative activity. Furthermore, it is normal to regress into simpler and more familiar strategies in very stressful situations, in the face of stresses that the individual does not know how to handle or that may also exceed what most people can cope with, such as natural disasters, severe accidents, captivity and threats to one's survival. This may include wanting to imagine a higher, caring body that watches over the individual. The saying that there are no atheists in the trenches ("There's no atheists in foxholes") has been questioned, but can still serve as an illustration from folk psychology. Normally, the individual will eventually be able to return to their normal level of function. The normal state of the individual can be said to be how he manages to function under the pressures of an average environment. The PDM Task Force (2006) describes this as "a person's center of psychological gravity" (p. 23).
The way to the individual acquires a private inner world of a kind that is also accompanied by a reasonably realistic perception of and participation in the outside world goes through many steps. Jemstedt (1993) describes this as a dialectical process between union and seclusion that eventually establishes a healthy distinction. Previous functional levels will remain as sources of power and possible retreat sites. Adulthood would be a more miserable time and the term "adult" might not even be adequate if the individual did not also have access to these other sides of themselves.
James W. Fowler (Bergstrand, 1990; Fowler, 1981/1995) has, based on interviews with mainly Christian believers, differentiated out seven types of religiosity. These follow each other as levels in a kind of maturation course, with some connection to the individual's age. To find authors who, based on some kind of psychodynamic frame of reference, have investigated individual differences in new age and new age, one probably needs to go to Jungian, humanistic or even transpersonal psychology. However, this would fall outside the scope of this study to investigate and try to account for more closely.
Farias and Granqvist (2007) suggest that biology and early relationship experiences, separately or in combination, may explain why many people are looking for the new age. The new worldview simply exhibits certain characteristic features that may feel familiar to those who have been neglected or insensitively treated during the formative childhood years or who have a genetic predisposition to, for example, magical thinking. People with this background do not need to embrace such a worldview, but the likelihood is greater. However, due to the lack of longitudinal studies, it cannot be excluded that it is not in fact the interest in the new-age thoughts and activities that have shaped the followers, the authors add.
Based on psychoanalysis, it is possible to hypothesize that what can attract this spiritual worldview is its resemblance to infantile thinking and experience (Faber, 1996). The commitment provides the opportunity for a regressive retreat that can be both malignant and benign and driven by both external pressure and the individual's own allure. In all cases, this enables a release from the complexity or demands of adulthood via a simpler and even more energy-saving way of living, experiencing and relating. Wikström (1998) raises this to a societal level and writes that a focus on inner transformation is something that belongs to the late 20th century and that it is an idealization of "the individual man's 'spiritual ability' to influence his destiny and the romanticization of man's inherent goodness. Evil, sickness and suffering are rather a delusion" (Wikström, 1998, p. 8).