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Free Church Pastors in Germany – Perceptions of Spirit Possession and Mental Illness

Michael Grossklaus

This book focuses on Free Church pastors in Germany and their perceptions of spirit possession and mental illness. To explore Free Church pastors’ understanding of spirit possession and mental illness is critical in light of the overlap of symptoms. Misdiagnosis may result in a client receiving treatment that may not be appropriate. Interviews with Free Church pastors were conducted. The results were analysed and four themes were identified. Based on these interviews conclusions could be drawn which ultimately made it clear that the German free church pastors’ theological training needs to be supplemented in the area of psychology and that the pastors are unable to cope in the area of «spirit possession or mental illness».

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1 Psychology and Spirit Possession


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1  Psychology and Spirit Possession

This chapter focuses on the psychological interpretation and understanding of spirit possession. Specifically, the aim is to elucidate the dominant approaches to the diagnosis of mental illness as well as the ways in which a spirit possession is understood.

1.1  What is Psychology?

William James, one of the pioneers of psychology as a scientific discipline, once stated “nasty little subject – all one cares to know lies outside” (Simon, 1996, p. 34). This Chapter starts with this postulation, but now, about hundred years later than William James, psychology has become a discipline with one of the highest numbers of students out of all study areas. Some students expect fascinating lectures about Freud’s psychoanalysis, Jung’s depth psychology and await such things as dream interpretation or how people can be seen through, and thus are rather surprised when they have to learn about perception, thinking, motivation and dry subjects such as statistics, data entry and mathematics. The discipline of psychology was only offered as an independent academic discipline from the end of the 19th century onwards. Prior to this, it was only mentioned as a side issue in subjects such as philosophy, medicine, pedagogy and theology. Particularly when it came to describing things that were not tangible, or rather were not measurable, then psychological terms or areas were partly taken up to cover this. No-one ever thought at that time that psychology would develop into an independent scientific...

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