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Spiritual or Religious Experience?


Hood, Hill, and Spilka (2018) contended that the exploration of religious and spiritual experiences can be fraught with challenges as the first task would be to define what experience actually means in point of fact. The researchers attempted to define experience by describing it as a response or a way of being. The researchers pointed out that religious experience can be viewed within the context of a faith tradition so that the tradition of a particular faith or the tenets of a particular faith would engender an experience that can be defined as a religious experience.


 Further, the researchers contended that the idea of an experience being religious or spiritual is dependent on the context of the experience as well as the interpretation of it. On the other hand, the researchers explained that spiritual experiences differ because they are not framed around dogma and can be more subjective. For the most part, the researchers contended that spiritual experiences are not innately religious. What is interesting to note, is that the researchers also point out that the very fact that spiritual experience is in and of itself subjective, some have argued that any spiritual experience that is not connected to religious traditions, could only be a narcissistic pursuit.


Friedman (2018) pointed out examples of spiritual experiences not tied to a religious tradition might be found in the study of transpersonal psychology. Transpersonal psychology had its advent during the 1960s among the counterculture movement. Carrier and Mitchell ( 2011) noted that transpersonal theory is effective in deepening an individual's connection to a sense of a higher power and encourages the quest for meaning and purpose in life. Some of the practices in transpersonal psychology include meditation and visualization with the goal of the individual accessing a stage of transcendence.

 Toscano (2017) discussed the connection between religion and spirituality in terms of sexual and gender identities among the LGBTQ community. The researchers investigated the two variables, religion and spirituality among this population and their expression of religion and spirituality seemed to vary greatly. Some individuals were more religious than others, some more spiritual, but not religious and some espoused atheism or agnosticism. A Gallup Poll demonstrated that LGBTQ individuals tend to be less likely to be religious in comparison to a group of non-LGBTQ study participants. The researchers contended that the response to religion and spirituality is best understood by placing it in a historical context and examining the ways in which the population had been marginalized. In point of fact, they experienced abuse by religious persons, as well as traditional organized religions.




Carrier, J.W. and Mitchell, N.G. . (2011).Transpersonal theory. In D. Capuzzi and D. Gross (Eds.). Counseling and psychotherapy: Theories and interventions. (pp.193- 213). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.


 Friedman, H. L. (2018). Transpersonal psychology as a heterodox approach to psychological science: Focus on the construct of self-expansiveness and its measure. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 6(1), 230–242. (Links to an external site.)

Hood, R. W., Hill, P. C., & Spilka, B. (2018). The Psychology of Religion: An Empirical Approach (5th ed.). The Guildford Press. 

Toscano, M. E. (2017). Intersectionality of religion/spirituality and sexual and gender identity. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9(4), 399–400. (Links to an external site.)

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