Visions of Daniel

Religion and the Human Sciences
An Approach via Spirituality


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Religion and the Human Sciences: An Approach via Spirituality. State University of New York Press, 1998.

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Proposes a new paradigm for interdisciplinary studies by applying the thought of Bernard Lonergan to define spirituality as the missing link between psychology and theology


Ever since Socrates raised questions about the gods, facets of religion have been branching off and claiming independence. This emancipation process is particularly difficult in the case of the human (or social) sciences, for they deal with the human being, about which religion has much to say. There is little clarity about how these two parties relate.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 1: Evangelical "Integration" Project

Chapter 3: Don Browning's Revised Critical Correlation

Chapter 4: Ken Wilber's Perennial Philosophy

Epilogue: An Overview of the Issues

With a focus on psychology, this book proposes a new approach. Three other approaches are commonly invoked. There is the call for dialogue, but specifying the ground rules for dialogue is precisely the challenge. There is Dilthey's classic distinction between the human or social sciences (Geisteswissenschaften) and the natural sciences (Naturwissenschaften), but this distinction allows that both religion and psychology fall under the human sciences, so specification of the ground rules for dialogue remains the challenge. Finally, there is appeal to the "perennial philosophy," but identifying the divine with the innermost core of the human, it blurs the distinction between theological and social-science matters from the start.

As a methodological study, a companion to The Human Core of Spirituality (SUNY Press, 1996), this book defines spirituality as a human-science specialization intermediary between psychology and theology. This definition provides a new key to the interdisciplinary problematic. Bernard Lonergan's notion of "higher viewpoints," ever expanding horizons of explanation that incorporate one another, is the conceptual undergirding for this new interdisciplinary position. Chapter Two elaborates this position as the book's main contribution.

The remaining chapters detail contrasts with those other three approaches. Chapter One analyzes the "integration project" of Evangelical Christianity as an important and sustained instance of the call for dialogue and the theology-versus-religious-studies debate as another expression of the same unsettledness. This initial analysis opens up the questions. Chapter Three treats Don Browning's "revised critical correlation," an elaborate example of the reigning Western approach that surpasses Dilthey's distinction by actually specifying what dialogue must look like. Chapter Four treats Ken Wilber's application of the perennial philosophy, which, with deep roots in Eastern thought, is the reigning paradigm in transpersonal psychology. Contrast with these other approaches serves to highlight their valid contributions, to pinpoint the flaws in them, to explain the source of the flaws and thus to suggest the needed correctives, and in the process to elucidate the interdisciplinary position of this book.

The overall argument is that refined attention to spirituality clarifies the relationship between religion and the human sciences, for religion is too undifferentiated a concept to allow for precise interrelationship. This far-reaching methodological study stretches toward a consensus that might structure a global community in the new millennium.


Acclaim for

Religion and the Human Sciences: An Approach via Spirituality

This brilliant, scholarly and breakthrough book is a tour de force in the solid establishment of a scientific spirituality. Helminiak's encompassing mind, using the complex constructs of Lonergan, frames a vision of a scientific revolution in spirituality and the human sciences. In this process, Helminiak is at his best in a thorough and well balanced critique of the Evangelical integration project of Crabb, the religio-ethical analyses of psychologies by Browning, and the transpersonal psychology of Wilber.
Merle R. Jordan, Th.D., Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Psychology
Boston University School of Theology

Helminiak is the West's answer to Ken Wilber -- encyclopedic and incisive in his treatment of cutting edge spiritual/psychological trends, their insights and distortions. He offers all the players, scientific and religious, Eastern and Western, his own profound and challenging synthesis. I am especially appreciative of his theoretical grounding of counseling and psychotherapy, in both its secular and religious expressions.
Homer A. Bain, Ph.D., Director of Education
Ecumenical Center for Religion and Health, San Antonio, Texas

At last someone has given us a framework for "precisely and coherently interrelating religious concerns and the human sciences." Daniel Helminiak has done what Lonergan dreamed and challenged us to do: give flesh to general empirical method in interdisciplinary dialogue. Those working in the area of spirituality can't afford to miss chapter two's "theotic viewpoint." The text is clean, clear, and direct. It will afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted who have been seeking a way out of a maze of ambiguity.
Carla Mae Streeter, O.P., Th.D., Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Spirituality
Aquinas Institute of Theology

By positing spirituality as the link between psychology and theology, Helminiak carries the effort at integration of religion and the human sciences beyond its current impasse. But the reader beware -- Helminiak's provocative analysis will cause you to examine long-held and cherished beliefs. This book is a must for those who are unreservedly authentic in their commitment to the truth. Ironically, this book demands even greater notice from those who are less genuine in that commitment.
Peter Hill, Ph.D., Editor,
Journal of Psychology and Christianity

A critical dialogue in transpersonal psychology seeks to delineate the relationship between religion, spirituality, and the human sciences. Building on the work of Bernard Lonergan, Dr. Helminiak gives that dialogue a powerful western philosophical perspective. The book contributes to foundational discussion by offering a new and stimulating analysis of Ken Wilber's thought. It adds a significant new voice to East-West discussions. It offers an effective model to situate within the human sciences the study of religion and spirituality. Thank you, Dr. Helminiak. This book, together with your other volumes, offers a valuable contribution to an extremely important topic.
Bob Schmitt, Ph.D., Academic Dean
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology