The Imaginary Walls Between Religion, Spirituality And Psychology

Bill Cottringer

“There are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.” ~Alfred North Whitehead.

Why do religion, spirituality and psychology try to tell us so many different, conflicting things about how to live successfully when they all have the same common purpose in our lives? Being a big fan of all three of these authorities on life, I have always known they do share a common purpose, despite being at severe odds in their sure cure, “how-to” prescriptions for carrying out this basic purpose.

The common purpose religion, spirituality and psychology have is to guide us in how to learn, grow and improve and be our best spiritual selves in order to give and get the most from life. If we can reach a consensus on this common purpose, then these big three helping sources can start communicating better with each other to build ways to collaborate and cooperate in helping people to fulfill their fundamental purpose. This would truly make the world a better place for us all.

So what gets in the way of progress? Very few people have bothered to peel back the many layers of differences between religion, spirituality and psychology to get to the point of agreement, mainly of their common denominator in purpose, that was lost when the differences started becoming annoying and there were prizes for who was more right.

At this point in my own life, this all seems so self-evident, that I want to apologize for all of us as to why we have allowed any institution like these big three have become (with the help of a giant one—multi-media), to act separately and exclusively in telling us how to be happy and successful. I think the reason is because it is so difficult to agree on the most important choices we have to make—the moral ones—on our human journey. And these are the choices that capture our interest the most and are the most debatable.

Take this issue of morality for a test run on the big three’s three C’s: Collaboration, Communication and Cooperation. There is really no reason why religion, spirituality and psychology, can’t agree as to what is or isn’t morally right at the core of things. The usual test of whole “truth” is convergence on the same conclusions from different perspectives. The best example is how western science and eastern mysticism both see the same truth from opposite directions—that time, space and matter blur into each other the deeper you look.

There have always been a few fundamental, independent standards of morality that have their individual exceptions, but when taken together as a whole, these “tests” offer such a powerful convergence of truth that could benefit us all:

1. The Golden Rule of “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us.” Of course, what do you do about another person who doesn’t want to be treated in the “right” way?
2. Utilitarianism where the answer is doing the thing that most benefits the majority. What do you do about the one goose that may just be out of formation from the rest of the flock that is entirely off course?
3. Reliance on a Higher Authority such as the law, Bible, established scientific principles, or soundly validated research. Isn’t this is where all the arguments start from all the personal interpretations and miscommunication?
4. Pragmatism of getting the best practical results with the least negative cost and side effects as a consequence of a chosen action. But how can you ever know the consequences of something until after it happens?
5. The Golden Mean standard that stresses balance and temperance as the best place to be. But aren’t there some things that deserve our unbridled embracing with all we have, without hesitancy?
6. The Pain-Gain Test where a little short-term pain is always worth a lot of long-term gain. But if you sacrifice short term pleasures for saving for the future and the stock market crashes, what happens then?

Maybe the trick of collaborating that currently challenges religion, spirituality and psychology, is in making the choices that at least half of the above standards would agree upon. It works for me and others who know this land of simple is not an easy place to get to, but worth the effort to peel back the layers of differences that get in the way.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA, along with being a Sport Psychologist, Business Success Coach, Photographer and Writer living in the scenic mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Re-Braining for 2000 (MJR Publishing), The prosperity Zone (Authorlink Press), You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too (Executive Excellence), The Bow-Wow Secrets (Wisdom Tree), and Do What Matters Most and “P” Point Management (Atlantic Book Publishers), and Reality Repair Rx (Publish America) This article is an excerpt from an upcoming book Reality Repair. Bill can be reached for comments or questions at (425) 454-5011 or