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September 1963

Religious Conversion

Author Affiliations

Instructor in Psychiatry, The Medical School, Northwestern University.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1963;9(3):207-216. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1963.01720150017003

From the time of Saul of Tarsus, the Christian Church has been aware of the phenomenon called "religious conversion." It has been accepted, by the religious, as a manifestation of the presence of God. They have been aware of the profound influence the experience has upon the life of the individual but have been content to understand it as a mystical experience. With the advent of modern dynamic psychology, around the turn of this century, the religious conversion experience has been sporadically examined psychologically. Because of its subjective impact on the individual, and, because of the effect on his subsequent behavior, the religious conversion experience is well worth this study.

We shall consider the religious conversion experience from the viewpoint of current thinking about the psychology of adolescence. With this approach, it has been possible to identify several predisposing factors, discuss the psychological processes involved, characterize