EVANGELICAL RELIGION AND MEDITATION: PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

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Abstract

Members of a religious sect, the Divine Light Mission, were evaluated for psychological effects of their experience in the group, in order to study systematically the psychotherapeutic effect of evangelical religious experience. Responses given by 119 members to a multiple choice questionnaire reflected a significant decline in the incidence of neurotic symptoms and of alcohol and drug use, from the period prior to joining to that immediately after joining. This lower incidence persisted over the course of membership, an average of 21 months. Responses relating to ritual meditation indicated frequent transcendent experiences. Symptom decline was found to correlate significantly with group-related activities and attitudes, and with specific aspects of the ritual meditation. Case examples are given from a group of subjects who were given psychiatric interviews in order to clarify the nature of the psychological effects. These findings are discussed with regard to their implications for psychotherapy.

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