1st Edition

Human Interaction with the Divine, the Sacred, and the Deceased Psychological, Scientific, and Theological Perspectives

Edited By Thomas G. Plante, Gary E. Schwartz Copyright 2022
    302 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    302 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Human Interaction with the Divine, the Sacred, and the Deceased brings together cutting-edge empirical and theoretical contributions from scholars in fields including psychology, theology, ethics, neuroscience, medicine, and philosophy, to examine how and why humans engage in, or even seek spiritual experiences and connection with the immaterial world. In this richly interdisciplinary volume, Plante and Schwartz recognize human interaction with the divine and departed as a cross-cultural and historical universal that continues to concern diverse disciplines. Accounting for variances in belief and human perception and use, the book is divided into four major sections: personal experience; theological consideration; medical, technological, and scientific considerations; and psychological considerations with chapters addressing phenomena including prayer, reincarnation, sensed presence, and divine revelations. Featuring scholars specializing in theology, psychology, medicine, neuroscience, and ethics, this book provides a thoughtful, compelling, evidence-based, and contemporary approach to gain a grounded perspective on current understandings of human interaction with the divine, the sacred, and the deceased. Of interest to believers, questioners, and unbelievers alike, this volume will be key reading for researchers, scholars, and academics engaged in the fields of religion and psychology, social psychology, behavioral neuroscience, and health psychology. Readers with a broader interest in spiritualism, religious and non-religious movements will also find the text of interest.


    Thomas G. Plante and Gary E. Schwartz

    Part I: The Personal and Storied Experience of Divine and Departed Communications

    1: Marginalizing the Sacred: The Clinical Contextualization of Sensed Presence


    Patricia Pearson

    2: Understanding Lived Experiences of Encountering the Divine and the Departed

    T. Anne Richards

    3: Personal Experiences of Communication with the Departed, the Sacred, and the

    Divine – A Self-Science Approach

    Gary E. Schwartz

    Part II: Theological Considerations

    4: Travels Beyond

    Catherine Wolff

    5: "God saw . . . and God knew . . .": Science, Divine Action, and Un/answered


    Paul J. Schutz

    6: "My Soul is Not Me": Monistic Anthropologies and Participatory Prayer

    Amanda Alexander

    7: Christian Perspectives on Praying for Deliverance from Demons

    Candy Gunther Brown

    8: Islamic Perspectives on Human Interaction with the Divine, the Sacred, Saints, and the


    Hasan Awan and Carrie York Al-Karam

    Part III: Medical, Technological, and Scientific Considerations

    9: Love and Healing

    Larry Dossey

    10: Implications of the Emerging Science of Consciousness for Prayer and Divine


    Eben Alexander

    11: Murder, Truth and Justice, and Religion: Altered Carbon and the Ambiguity of

    Real Death

    Braden Molhoek

    12: Ghosts and Gods in the Machine: Human-Machine Interfaces in Transhuman


    Levi Checketts

    13: Contemporary Evidence for Communication with the Departed and the Sacred

    Gary E. Schwartz

    Part IV: Psychological Considerations

    14: The Process of Believing and Communicating with the Unseen

    Raymond F. Paloutzian, Rüdiger J. Seitz, and Hans-Ferdinand Angel

    15: The Meaning of Beliefs in Communicating with God and the Deceased for Individuals’ Well-being

    Crystal L. Park

    16: Perceiving Messages from the Divine and Departed: An Attributional


    Julie J. Exline and Kathleen C. Pait

    17: Ethical Challenges with Communication with the Divine and the Departed

    Thomas G. Plante


    Thomas G. Plante and Gary E. Schwartz



    Thomas G. Plante is Professor of psychology, and by courtesy, religious studies, at Santa Clara University. He is also Adjunct Clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, USA.

    Gary E. Schwartz is Professor of Psychology, Medicine, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Surgery at the University of Arizona. He is also Director of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona, USA.

    "Prayer and communication with God and with our ‘dearly departed’ is an important part of many people's spiritual lives. Professors Plante and Schwartz, along with distinguished colleagues from diverse scholarly disciplines, offer a contemporary scientific, psychological, and theological foundation of this phenomenon that should educate and inspire readers looking for a serious reflection on highly personal but often misunderstood part of life." - Rev. James Martin, SJ, Editor at Large, America Media, and author of Learning to Pray: A Guide for Everyone and My Life with the Saints 

    "In Human Interaction with the Divine, the Sacred, and the Deceased, Professors Thomas Plante and Gary Schwartz have assembled a remarkable team of leading multidisciplinary scholars offering provocative, compelling, and evidence-based reflections on communication with the divine and departed. They fearlessly attempt to address a question on the minds of just about everyone for millennium, ‘Is there consciousness after death and do the divine and departed hear us?’ The book is likely to become a classic in the field of science, religion, and spirituality." -Harold G. Koenig, M.D. Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and Director, Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, Duke University Medical Center

    "The haunting refrain of the song Immortality: 'we don’t say goodbye' has a telling immediacy for millions whose relationships were disrupted as they mourn but remain in touch with deceased loved ones. Making sense of the experience of communing with the departed has been a dilemma for survivors and helping professionals. Human Interaction with the Divine, the Sacred, and the Deceased is a brilliant, timely, and essential resource for solace and healing. Highly recommended."- Len Sperry, MD, PhD, author, Spirituality in Clinical Practice.

    "Throughout history and in every culture, people have sought to connect with the divine and commune with departed loved ones. This tour de force by Plante and Schwartz reveals the psychological and spiritual gifts of these transpersonal experiences. This unique collection of essays offers us glimpses into the transformative potentials of often fleeting encounters with the ineffable and points to their ability to heal many a broken heart."- Marilyn Schlitz, PhD, Author of Death Makes Life Possible

    "This is a fascinating, beautifully researched, insightful study of our yearning for contact with those we've lost and our quest for information on the afterlife. I learned a lot." - Ron Hansen, Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ Professor in the Arts & Humanities at Santa Clara University and author of Mariette in Ecstasy, Exiles, and most recently Hotly in Pursuit of the Real.

    "In Human Interaction with the Divine, the Sacred, and the Deceased, Thomas G. Plante and Gary E. Schwartz have brought together experts from a wide range of disciplines to address some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. This powerful, inspiring and important volume is one of the most comprehensive treatments to date of the afterlife, the nature of the divine, and communication with the dead. Believers and skeptics alike – and no matter where one falls on the religious/spiritual/agnostic/atheist spectrum – will benefit from the insights and findings contained in these chapters." - Valerie A. Abrahamsen, ThD, author of Paranormal: A New Testament Scholar Looks at the Afterlife

    "The volume edited by Thomas Plante and Gary Schwartz is a pioneering and bold effort ….it covers a great deal of territory, bringing together scholars who generally live and work within specialised silos and see the world through different lens…The chapters are filled with thoughtful perspectives, new information, perplexing questions, and unusual experiences that will fascinate and challenge many readers, skeptic as well as believers….I applaud the editors and authors for opening the door to further scholarly inquiry of this overlooked, but vital dimension of human experience." - Kenneth I. Pargament, Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH, USA

    "With the advent of Freudian psychology came the pathologization of personal experiences of the divine, the sacred, and the deceased. What had once been considered by many a special gift became symptomatic of a clinical disorder. In their newly edited book, Human Interaction with the Divine, the Sacred, and the Deceased: Psychological, Scientific, and Theological Perspectives, Thomas Plante and Gary Schwartz have assembled a multi-disciplinary approach that takes such encounters seriously, validating them as worthy of scholarly attention. They aim to expand our ways of thinking about interactions with the divine, sacred and deceased, and do so by presenting ideas and research methodologies that reach outside the traditional box." - Susan L. DeHoff & W. Paul Williamson, The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion