The origins of psychology
If one was to look realistically at the question of where psychology began and what were the origins, it wouldn't be too far from the truth that since man and women walked this earth, the relationship between them has been discussed and debated to such an extent that it would be fairly accurate to say that even in stone age man, psychology was already setting it's wheels in motion, along with the stone wheels of progress.
Those that believe in the Bible's version of the beginning would look towards the experience in the Garden of Eden that took place between Adam and Eve, where the psychology of temptation and human weakness was introduced into the equation to see how man responded. Indeed throughout the Old Testament, psychology played a huge part in teaching Christians morality by demonstrating different scenarios that called for different reactions, which is the basis of the study of the psychology of human reaction to different stimuli.
It would be hard to perceive life without some kind of psychology, and although not written into history as a natural phenomenon, psychology is exactly that, being a process of trying to understand human need, reaction, stimulation, consequence and indeed what lay behind choices made through every step of human life.
To take this further, how can a human perceive a world where no-one questions the motives of another ? The motives for historical actions throughout the history of mankind are reactions to stimuli and the fact that these may not have been written up as psychological occurrences, there is no doubt that the psychology of actions taken and the lessons learned played a part in molding who we are today.
For the Christian, what other purpose could there be than the psychology of trust to understand the crucifixion? For the none believer, what evidence of evolution is not tainted with reaction and consequence ? Whatever the school of thought, the science of psychology has existed since man took his first steps on the earth, and here, let us discover the kind of psychology employed that took the world from the ice age to the present.
Ice age man made his living off the land. He learned what benefited him and what was detrimental, foraging for food to fill their needs. Looking at the theories of Maslow in the early part of the 20th Century, what he discovered about human need and how catering for it allows human being to fulfill potential was exactly what ice age man was doing years before the birth of Christ. No-one told them how to do those things that were essential to survival, but they learned to make the most of their lives, to build levels of needs such as described by Maslow, for bodily sustenance, security and furthered it by learning to make tools to enhance their lives.
All through history dating back to Descartes and Plato, and in more recent times to Freud, Piaget, Skinner and all the well known scholars in the field of psychology, what each of these scholars did was to take elements of society and try to create sense and reason. In Freud's case in Victorian Europe, society presented him with a rather risque system of class that no doubt fueled the work that he did in developing his studies into ego, the id and the relationship of past in current behavior patterns and beliefs.
How vain we would be if accepting that psychology began with these great men that stand out in history as pioneers. Man asked the first questions about his existence and even those as simplistic as:
Why can't I feed my family?
How can we make society better?
Why did someone I love have to die?
Why did my mother hate me?
What was happening was that the history of mankind and his approach to psychology was being explored. It would be stupidity to assume that psychology's roots lie with the men who found their fame in it's study, since each of them took what already existed and like millions of others before them, tried to make sense of human behavior patterns, though had the luxury of time to record their findings.
Psychological study neatly placed every human need into neat little boxes with labels and those great thinkers that we have come to recognize to have made a difference to our perception of psychology were just part and parcel of the labeling process of mankind.
Those great psychologists of renown were indeed a contributing factor to the society that has evolved. Their work in many ways made huge leaps for mankind's understanding though each thinking person from the beginning of mankind gave them the material to study, and without this psychology would be an abstract form with no substance.
It is to mankind that the credit must go for the roots of psychology, or indeed the God that created mankind, whichever he may be.