For hundreds of years, individuals who experience unusual phenomena have, in the main, found such to bring more challenges than opportunities. Indeed, for many, it was the source of great suffering; from those tortured by inquisitors, to those who were locked in the halls of hospitals such as Bedlam, people who saw heard, or felt things not perceived by the majority were considered evil, or insane. Even today, people who have religious experiences are cautious when sharing such with others. Fears that they will be thought to be psychologically abnormal –crazy or even just ‘not quite the full quid’ keep many quiet about what are often interesting and possibly meaningful experiences.
Yet, for as long as humans have existed, there have been reports of such experiences. From those practicing the Shamanic traditions of ancient cultures through to those who employ the magical techniques of emerging civilizations, to those engage in mysticism, many individuals, who appear fully integrated members of their society or culture, have had experiences that are considered to fall outside of the range of that which is normal. However, if such is indeed a recurring aspect of human experience, it must be asked whether such experiences are truly abnormal, or whether they are expressive of a ‘normal’ dimension of within human personality.
Investigations into the psychology of religion have been looking at questions like these, trying to understand the psychology of religion. Associations with particular personality traits, as well as with particular forms creativity have been found, and questions have been raised as to whether what appear to be unusual religious experiences have been properly considered in the past. However, while many of these studies have looked at the experiences of people in mainstream religions, the experiences of people who identify with smaller, or less recognized religious groupings have not been well considered. This is unfortunate, because unless religious experience can be shown to be something that transcends the boundaries of particular religions, the question of whether it is part of normal human experience cannot be answered. Indeed, as long as religiosity is only considered as part of the paradigm of the established religions, it will only ever been seen through their eyes.
As part of attempts to diversify understanding, Dr. Tiliopoulos and myself (Caroline Fielden), from The University of Sydney, Australia are conducting research into the relationship between religious experience and particular aspects of personality. In particular we are looking for feedback from those who identify with nature-based religions – this being a community whose voice has yet to be properly heard in this type of research. We are hoping that such will reveal a clearer idea of what religiosity is, and what it means for our understanding of what it is to be human. To this end, we invite you to give expression to your experience, to complete this survey, which will be running for only a limited period of time. Please also feel free to pass on this survey, as the more respondents we have, the better. We thank you for your help, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Caroline at cfie7276 @ usyd.edu.au, or Dr. Tiliopoulos at nikot @ psychusyd.edu.au.
For those who wish to complete the survey follow the link below and simply answer the questions to the best of your ability. The survey should 5-10 minutes to complete.