Religion and Psychology in Transition

Religion and Psychology in Transition: Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and Theology

James W. Jones
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Religion and Psychology in Transition
    Book Description:

    In this thought-provoking book, clinical psychologist and professor of religious studies James W. Jones presents a dialogue between contemporary psychoanalytic thinking and contemporary theology. He sheds new light on the interaction of religion and psychology by viewing it from the perspective of world religions, providing an epistemological framework for the psychology of religion that draws on contemporary philosophy of science, and bringing out the importance of gender as a category of analysis.Developments in psychoanalysis provide new resources for theological reflection, Jones contends. The Freudian view that human nature is isolated and instinctual has shifted to a vision of the self as constituted in and through relationships. Jones uses this relational model of human nature to explore the convergence between contemporary psychoanalysis, feminist theorizing, and themes in religious thought found in a variety of traditions. He also critiques the reductionism inherent in Freud's discussion of religion and proposes nonreductionistic and genuinely psychoanalytic ways for psychoanalysis to treat religious topics. For therapists, psychologists, theologians, and others interested in spiritual or psychological issues, Jones offers illuminating clinical material and insightful analysis.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12938-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xii)

    This book represents a dialogue between psychoanalysis and theology that has been going on in my mind and with colleagues for more than two decades. As both a clinical psychologist trained in psychoanalytic psychology and a professor of religious studies trained in the philosophy of religion who continues to work in both religious scholarship and clinical practice and who has a background in philosophy of science, this discussion has been central to my professional life. But I am not only an academic. I am a practicing psychotherapist. I have also been an ordained member of the clergy and a student...

  5. I Being Human
    • 1 Freud on Human Nature and Religion
      (pp. 3-23)

      Sigmund Freud’s narrative of the origin of the superego is, among other things, an answer to the question of how antisocial instincts become civilized. For Freud, human nature begins and ends with pleasure-seeking, biological drives: the building blocks of personality and the source of all human achievement. That starting point forces him to struggle, in the third chapter ofThe Ego and the Id,with how these antisocial drives of Victorian Darwinian theory are domesticated. Drawing on his theory of depression as articulated years earlier inMourning and Melancholy,Freud maps the journey from blind instinct to high culture through...

    • 2 The Capacity for Relationships
      (pp. 24-40)

      A transformed model of human nature that makes possible a more open attitude toward religion on the part of psychoanalysis can be discerned in the theorizing associated with the British object relations school of psychoanalysis and the American school of self psychology. Their thinking moves away from Freud’s instinctual model of human motivation and replaces it with an essentially relational vision of human beings.

      This rethinking of psychoanalysis begins with the work of the Scottish analyst W. R. D. Fairbairn (biographical information on Fairbairn is taken from Sutherland 1989). Fairbairn spent almost his whole life in Edinburgh, essentially isolated from...

    • 3 A Relational Psychoanalysis of Religion
      (pp. 41-64)

      In this chapter I shall discuss how a relational psychoanalyst might approach religious material in therapy, and I shall illustrate some of the interpretative gain that can accrue to the analysis of religious material by seeing such material in terms of relational patterns and dynamics. Chapter 4 will show how such relational psychoanalytic models might contribute to theological reflection.

      The shift from a Freudian to a relational model of human nature has tremendous implications for the investigation of the psychodynamic roots of religion. This psychoanalytic task is clearly and concisely summarized by Ana-Maria Rizzuto: “Properly investigated, under detailed and careful...

    • 4 Toward a Relational Theology
      (pp. 65-94)

      Beyond the implications of a relational model for theanalysisof religious themes (as illustrated in chapter 3), a new view of human nature is being proposed within relational psychoanalysis that has extensive ramifications not just for the psychoanalytic study of religion but for religion itself. Freud’s view foreclosed the possibility of a religiously meaningful understanding of human nature. The mechanistic account was complete; all aspects of human life, from the hunger pangs of infancy to the paintings of Rembrandt and the theories of Einstein, were permutations on the themes of sex and aggression. In contrast, a relational model reopens...

  6. II Knowing
    • 5 Illusion
      (pp. 97-113)

      This book is organized around Freud’s two approaches to the analysis of religion. The first part of this book—on human nature—concerns Freud’s oedipal argument on the origin of religion in the creation of the superego out of the vicissitudes of the instincts. This second section—on human knowledge follows from Freud’s functional analysis of religion in terms of narcissism.

      A central pillar of Freud’s intellectual edifice was the “reality principle”—a metaphysical theory transformed into a diagnostic category. The “reality” behind the “reality principle” was the physical world as described by nineteenth-century physics. Armed with this clear and...

    • 6 The Dilemmas of Reductionism
      (pp. 114-130)

      When psychology and religion approach each other, the problem of reductionism always seems close at hand. Can psychoanalysis investigate religion without reducing religion to a purely psychological phenomenon?

      Freud exemplifies the reductionistic interpretation of religion. In his oedipal analysis of religion, Freud makes three rather different types of claims. First, Freud describes the psychodynamics of religion, implying that unconscious processes are involved in all types of religious experience, that “religion, morality, and a social sense—the chief elements in the higher side of man—are acquired phylogenetically out of the father complex” ([1923] 1960: 34). Second, he asserts that this...

    • 7 A Nonreductive Psychoanalysis
      (pp. 131-150)

      Although reductionism played a salient role in the development of psychoanalysis, it is methodologically suspect. What might take the place of reductionism, especially in the psychoanalysis of religion?

      Freud’s analysis, Hans Loewald says, “always smacks of reduction. It also implies there is some element of sham or pretense in our greatly valued higher activities” (1978: 75). By contrast, for Loewald, mental activity is not primarily a defense but, rather, “belongs to the area of ego development” (1988: 33) and represents a real transformation of instinct. Sublimation gives rise to genuinely new forms of thought, which still remain in touch with...

  7. Conclusion: Being Human, Knowing God
    (pp. 151-154)

    I have suggested two possible alternatives to a reductionistic account of the relationship between psychoanalysis and religion: one involved compartmentalizing religion and science into separate disciplines; the other envisioned a hierarchical ordering of disciplines in terms of increasingly encompassing concerns. Each approach contains slightly different implications for the theological task and its relation to psychoanalysis. Framing the issue of science and religion in terms of compartmentalization continues the modern penchant for dichotomous reasoning. Envisioning the relationship between religion and science as increasingly more encompassing frames of reference introduces a potential continuity between them.

    The first model begins from the idea...

  8. References
    (pp. 155-162)
  9. Index
    (pp. 163-164)