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Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan

The Emperor's New Clothes

The naked truth about the new psychology
William Kirk Kilpatrick
Crossway Books

Along with Psychology as Worship by Paul Vitz, this is the classic critique of the new psychology, that is, Rogerian psychology, the human potential movement and the different encounter programmes. The book consists of a series of brilliant essays, showing us that the new psychology is counterfeit religion. We were told that the new psychology would liberate us from the shackles of old fashioned morality and lead us to greater happiness. But the new psychology has not delivered: the Emperor has no clothes.

Carl Rogers believed that human beings are basically good and all that is needed is his therapy to make us happy. His understanding of values is entirely subjective: what is good for you may not be good for me. Self-acceptance also leads to the principle of autonomy trumping other ethical principles.

A glance at a photo of a smiling Rogers makes it difficult to associate him with current secular fundamentalism. And yet, he had no time for Christian orthodoxy. His followers want to punish Christians by claiming they have no right to free speech as what they say may hurt the psychologically sensitive. As I write this, it is reported that Spanish feminists want Cardinal Canizares prosecuted for defending traditional sexual morality.

Sexual morality is indeed undermined by Rogerian psychology. The author cites certain "Catholic" RE programmes that make use of the book Becoming Partners by Rogers. In that book, he argues that it is morally acceptable for married couples to grow apart.

Trying to blend the insights of Rogers with Catholicism has been a disaster: the author quotes this from the Benziger Series: " Jesus was trying to show people how they could be themselves." There is little mention of sin or salvation.

The author also critiques the ideas of Lawrence Kohlberg. Like Rogers, Kohlberg was a moral subjectivist: the only truths are those that make sense to me. When I study the doctrines of the Church, the only ones that are true are those I experience as true. Kohlberg's rejection of traditional authority would have meant that he would have had little time for Catholic orthodoxy. His follower, Christiane Brusselmans, did a great deal of harm inside the Church through her various religious educational programmes.

If the new psychologists had little time for Christian orthodoxy, they have been comfortable with Eastern spirituality because it seems to provide the desired blend of mystical experience and positive thinking. To this day, Hollywood stars shy away from Christianity but are quite happy to promote Eastern spirituality.

The author says that "the result of reading a book by Rogers is that you come across thinking that just about anything is possible." Adultery can be a good thing if it makes us feel better about ourselves. The author gives us good reasons to avoid the new psychology.

Interview with Dr William Coulson

Copyright ©; Dr Pravin Thevathasan 2016

Version: 13th June 2016

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