Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 74(2) May 2024

Book Review

The Quest for Who We Are?
Modern Psychology and the Sacred.

By Samuel Bendeck Sotillos Published by Fons Vitae, Jan 2023

Reviewed byDr PravinThevasathan

Book CoverPsychology, until recent times, was seen as the study of the soul. As the author notes, this made for some very rich reflections. The basic quest was a search for meaning, for what it means to be a human person. There was a journey to be made, into the transcendent realms, the metaphysical and the spiritual.

As the author so persuasively argues, modern psychology will have nothing to do with this. Most modern psychologists do not concern themselves with the soul as they do not believe in its existence. The human person is reduced to a material thing. This "Cartesian bifurcation" has been a disaster, notes the author.

In the field of psychiatry, we no longer help our patients find meaning to their lives. The science of psychiatry has been reduced to the study of symptoms and the prescribing of the appropriate treatment. Something very similar, albeit non-chemical, has happened in psychology.

All this reminds me of a great book I read a few decades ago: Psychology as Religion by Paul Vitz. What Vitz said so superbly was that modern psychologists were attempting to reduce religion to materialistic psychology. But that only led to the cult of self-worship.

What Samuel Sotillos is saying is that it should be the other way round: psychologists ought to help people find meaning through transcendence and the spiritual. After all, psychology in its origins is metaphysical. What psychologists need to do is to turn to the wisdom traditions of many different cultures. That will take a lot of persuading in the United Kingdom where psychologists and psychiatrists are discouraged from moving into the spiritual realms.

A very insightful work.