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Freud and Augustine in Dialogue

Psychoanalysis, Mysticism, and the Culture of Modern Spirituality

William B. Parsons

Publication Year: 2013

"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 his Confessions, 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.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. 5-6

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pp. vii-x

...Several people and institutions were instrumental in the production of this book. Foremost among them is the Institute for Advanced Studies at Hebrew University, where I was a resident Fellow during the 2008– 9 academic year. To my closest conversation partners— Philip Wexler and Jonathan Garb (who invited me), Yoram Bilu, Elliot Wolfson, Boaz Huss...

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pp. 1-28

...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...

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pp. 29-45

...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 refl ects diff erences in methodological persuasion. A central and oft en unchallenged assumption of psychoanalytic studies...

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pp. 46-68

...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...

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pp. 69-101

...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 selfidentity of psychoanalytic theory. Rather, the aim is to open up new lines...

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pp. 102-132

...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.” Although a distinction can be drawn between mysticism as...

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pp. 133-180

...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...


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pp. 181-202


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pp. 203-212


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pp. 213-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780813934808
E-ISBN-10: 081393480x
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813934785
Print-ISBN-10: 0813934788

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 862365971
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Freud and Augustine in Dialogue

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Subject Headings

  • Mysticism.
  • Spirituality.
  • Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939.
  • Augustine, Saint, Bishop of Hippo.
  • Psychoanalysis and religion.
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