|CLARK, WALTER HOUSTON|
|(1902-) A major figure in the middle
years of the psychology of religion as a Professor of Psychology at Andover-Newton
Theological Seminary, he was a student of Gordon Allport at Harvard. His understanding of
religion was profoundly shaped by Allport as well as by William James.
Allport's influence can be seen in Clark's 1958 textbook, The Psychology of Religion (Macmillan), especially in his distinction between primary, secondary, and tertiary religious behaviorreminiscent of Allport's intrinsic-extrinsic dichotomy. Primary religious behavior is at the heart of Clark's definition of religion: "the inner experience of the individual when he senses a Beyond, especially as evidenced by the effect of this experience on his behavior when he actively attempts to harmonize his life with the Beyond." Secondary behavior is a "pale approximation" of primary behavior, being habitual or obligatory (e.g., routine church attendance). Tertiary behavior, even further removed, having nothing to do with firsthand experience, is conventional, accepted on the authority of others (e.g., children's behavior).
Clark's steadfast maintenance of the centrality of mysticism to understanding religion is markedly Jamesian. His interest in mysticism flowered in the 1960s as a result of an encounter with then Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary, after which Clark focused his attention on psychedelic drugs and religion. His 1969 book Chemical Ecstasy (Sheed & Ward) is a guardedly optimistic defense of the importance of psychedelic drugs for religion. Although he argues that psychedelics provide access to mystical consciousness, he sees drugs not as a cause but as a trigger , facilitating the realization of what is already inside the person. Clark also claims that he learned as much about religion from his six "trips" as he had from all his "plodding study" of the psychology of religion.
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