How Psychology Lost Its Soul

Did you know that the existence of the human soul was once an inherent part of the subject of psychology?

Check out this definition from the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary: 


1: a discourse or treatise on the human soul; or the doctrine of the nature and properties of the soul.

Now take a look at the definition from the current edition of Webster’s Online Dictionary: 


1: the science of mind and behavior 

Somehow between 1828 and present day, psychology, the subject that once explored mankind’s spiritual nature, was replaced by a “science of mind and behavior.”

How did it happen?

Hallway with paint peeling off the walls
The Willard Hospital for the Chronic Insane, a now abandoned psychiatric institution in Willard, New York. (Photo by Sherman Cahal/

Atheists are reluctant to admit it, but Western Civilization rests largely upon the proposition that human beings have a divine relationship with God. The concept, expressed through phrases like “children of God” and “created in God’s image,” draws a sharp distinction between humankind and the beasts of the field.

Psychology’s “soul” was a casualty in the war between the spiritually alive and the spiritually dead. 

It took many years for this idea to fully take root, but when it did, some brave souls dared to carry it to its logical conclusion:

If men and women are, in fact, God’s “children” wouldn’t God endow them with certain inalienable rights?

This revolutionary idea is expressed verbatim in the Declaration of Independence. The “inalienable rights” granted by God and recognized by the state, unleashed the power of the human spirit. Western civilization soared to never-imagined heights.

This wasn’t good news for those who valued personal power and profit over human rights and freedom. For them, the idea of inalienable rights was a bloody nuisance. Some circumvented the idea by declaring that certain classes of people or races didn’t have souls and therefore could be subjugated, killed, or owned as property. Think about it…

Could slave owners in the old South have lived with themselves or their consciences had they seen black people as children of God?

Would 6 million Jews have died in German concentration camps if their oppressors had seen them as God’s children?

How many hundreds of millions of lives would have been saved if the masses hadn’t stepped away from religion to embrace the anti-religious political philosophies of Marxism and Communism?

You don’t have to believe in a god with a beard, who knows and sees all, to believe in your own spiritual nature. You aren’t required to choose between science and spirituality. Spiritual truths are never found in test tubes. They exist at a far higher echelon of existence.

Psychology’s “soul” was a casualty in the war between the spiritually alive and the spiritually dead. Yes, I know that might sound pretentious. Scoffing at all things religious or spiritual is quite the thing to do these days.

But is there a better way to distinguish between those who celebrate their spiritual nature and those who believe we’re nothing more than animated pieces of meat? Have you ever wondered why some people become so upset at the idea that others believe in humankind’s spiritual side? What others choose to believe is no skin off their backs, so why the ruckus?

Maybe it’s because it reminds them of something precious they lost somewhere along the way… and that hurts.

Or perhaps, for some, there’s a darker reason.  

Jim Kalergis
Jim is a Los Angeles based screenwriter specializing in edit/rewrite work. In previous careers, Jim was a disk jockey, developed educational materials for industry, and managed a number of broadcast TV studio operations. His free time activities include ham radio and contributing to web-based discussion groups on a wide range of subjects.