Freud and Augustine in Dialogue

Freud and Augustine in Dialogue: Psychoanalysis, Mysticism, and the Culture of Modern Spirituality

WILLIAM B. PARSONS
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrm01
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  • Book Info
    Freud and Augustine in Dialogue
    Book Description:

    "It is arguably the case," writes William Parsons, "that no two figures have had more influence on the course of Western introspective thought than Freud and Augustine." Yet it is commonly assumed that Freud and Augustine would have nothing to say to each other with regard to spirituality or mysticism, given the former's alleged antipathy to religion and the latter's not usually being considered a mystic.

    Adopting an interdisciplinary, dialogical, and transformational framework for interpreting Augustine's spiritual journey in hisConfessions,Parsons places a "mystical theology" at the heart of Augustine's narrative and argues that his mysticism has been misunderstood partly because of the limited nature of the psychological models applied to it. At the same time, he expands Freud's therapeutic legacy to incorporate the contemporary findings of physiology and neuroscience that have been influenced in part by modern spirituality.

    Parsons develops a new psychological hermeneutic to account for Augustine's mysticism that will capture the imagination of contemporary readers who are both psychologically informed and interested in spirituality. The author intends this interpretive model not only to engage modern introspective concerns about developmental conflict and the power of the unconscious but also to reach a more nuanced level of insight into the origins and the nature of the self.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3480-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-28)

    It is arguably the case that no two figures have had more influence on the course of Western introspective thought than Freud and Augustine. As they wrote centuries apart, we might assume that it would be Freud, the more contemporary of the two, who would have the last say. But the primordial wisdom contained in Augustine’s substantial written corpus and the unpredictable nature of cultural eddies have ensured the continuation of numerous long and protracted debates revolving around the very different perspectives on human nature each bequeathed to culture.

    Traditionally, Freud is considered to have had little, if any, sympathy...

  5. one RHETORIC
    (pp. 29-45)

    Psychoanalytic explorations of theConfessionshave led to the emergence of a major interpretive divide over whether the work is a predominantly biographical memoir or a predominantly rhetorical text intended to teach and instill belief. This interpretive divide in turn reflects differences in methodological persuasion.

    A central and often unchallenged assumption of psychoanalytic studies of theConfessionsis that the subject of the psychological inquiry is none other than the historical Augustine. It is certainly possible to uncover the various complexes, fixations, and neurotic tendencies that animate the flow of Augustine’s narrative, just as one can do with analysands’ narratives...

  6. two VISION
    (pp. 46-68)

    The discussion in the previous chapter prompts two interrelated lines of inquiry. First, we have concluded that Augustine’s inclusion of Monica in the ascent at Ostia speaks to the rhetorical complexity of the text. If this is the case, then it is of interest to know the extent to which such rhetorical complexity is also linked to a sophisticated teaching about the nature of mystical ascents—one that can be used to mount an epistemological challenge to the psychoanalytic view that all mysticism be reduced to the developmental cycle. In order to ascertain this a full textual and theological reconstruction...

  7. three VISION INTERPRETED
    (pp. 69-101)

    With a more informed view of Augustine’s teaching on the nature and conditions of mystical vision at hand, we are in a better position to return to psychoanalytic thought in an attempt to find common ground for dialogue. Lest the project be misunderstood, the aim is not to expand psychoanalytic thought to fully tally with Augustine’s mystical theology. Such a pursuit clearly lies beyond the limits and self-identity of psychoanalytic theory. Rather, the aim is to open up new lines of argument, based on texts and teachings, where the two introspective traditions might have more to talk about than has...

  8. four THERAPEIA
    (pp. 102-132)

    In exploring how the academic termmysticismcan be profitably utilized to probe the history of Christian mysticism, Bernard McGinn is adamant that its interpretation and meaning cannot be divorced from the total matrix of Christian ideation, practice, and accoutrements. Moreover, McGinn is careful to distinguish between mysticism rendered in terms of an episodic experience and what he refers to as “a process or a way of life.”¹ Although a distinction can be drawn between mysticism as experience and mysticism as process, McGinn holds that ultimately, the two are inseparable:

    Mysticism is always a process or a way of life....

  9. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 133-180)

    The discussion to this point has been directed toward establishing a new chapter in the ongoing psychoanalytic reception history of Augustine’sConfessions. In laying out the argument, I have had occasion to touch on multiple issues germane to the broader academic study of mysticism, the place of psychoanalysis in it, and what seems to be the widespread emergence of a psychologically informed culture invested in mysticism and spirituality. It is this latter, wider and socially relevant fact that, in this concluding chapter, I take up in greater depth. The discussion proceeds by way of something assumed throughout this book, namely,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 181-202)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 203-212)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 213-228)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-230)