Relationship with Spiritual Literature
In the modern world, positive psychology is playing an important role in identifying ideas that promote well being in aggregate populations. In a way, it formalizes, evaluates and refines ideas found in spiritual literature and self help books. The formalization and evaluation is done in a structured way, using statistical techniques to validate models and interventions. Results are disseminated via talks, articles, books, workshops and programs.
Considerable overlap exists between techniques found in positive psychology books and spiritual literature from any tradition. For example, the ideas of service, thankfulness, opening up, positive thinking, social connectedness and forgiveness are common to both. Some new ideas in positive psychology are: goal setting and physical fitness, which are responses to the pressures of modern lifestyle that is becoming increasingly sedentary and competitive.
Modern psychology is quantitative and statistical in nature. On the other hand, spiritual literature is qualitative.
Inspiration in spiritual literature stems from admiration of a colossal figure like St Francis of Assisi or Buddha. A modern scientist might call such individuals 'outliers', which are not representative of the entire population, in a statistical sense. Modern psychologist focus on aggregate populations. They draw inspiration from experiments and studies that demonstrate increase in well being metrics in a fair number of participants.
Spiritual literature strives for perfection: to root out the last bit of 'negative reaction' (craving or aversion) that we may be carrying inside us. The goals of positive psychology are modest by comparison: to improve overall well being in aggregate populations.
On the whole, positive psychology is an awesome subject to study. Techniques developed by the positive psychology community help increase peace and joy in our day to day life.