Preeminent psychoanalyst Mortimer Ostow believes that early
childhood emotional attachments form the cognitive underpinnings of
spiritual experience and religious motivation. His hypothesis,
which is verifiable, relies on psychological and neurobiological
evidence but is respectful of the human need for spiritual
Ostow begins by classifying the three parts of the spiritual
experience: awe, Spirituality proper, and mysticism. After he
pinpoints the psychological origins of these feelings in infancy,
he discusses the foundations of religious sentiment and practice
and the brain processes associated with spiritual experience. He
then focuses on spirituality's relationship to mood regulation, and
the role of negative spirituality in fostering religious
fundamentalism and demonic possession.
Ostow concludes with an analysis of an essay by the
psychoanalyst Donald M. Marcus, who recounts his own spiritual
experience during a Native American-style "vision quest" in the
woods. Marcus's account demonstrates the constructive potential of
spirituality and the way in which spirituality retrieves and
recapitulates feelings of attachment to the mother.
Persuasively and brilliantly argued, Spirit, Mind, and
Brain brings the disciplines of religion, behavorial
neuroscience, and philosophy to bear on a groundbreaking new method
for understanding religious ritual and belief.
Subjects: Religion, Psychology
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