Freud and Augustine in Dialogue
Psychoanalysis, Mysticism, and the Culture of Modern Spirituality
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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AC KNOW LEDG MENTS
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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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It is arguably the case that no two fi gures have had more infl uence on the course of Western introspective thought than Freud and Au-gustine. 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 re-...
o n eRHETORIC
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Psychoanalytic explorations of the Confessions have led to the emer-gence 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 A central and oft en unchallenged assumption of psychoanalytic stud-ies of the Confessions is that the subject of the psychological inquiry is none other than the historical Augustine. It is certainly possible to un-...
t w oVISION
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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 teach-ing about the nature of mystical ascents— one that can be used to mount an epistemological challenge to the psychoanalytic view that all mysti-...
t h r e eVISIONINTERPRETED
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With a more informed view of Augustine’s teaching on the nature and conditions of mystical vision at hand, we are in a better po-sition to return to psychoanalytic thought in an attempt to fi nd 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 ...
f o u rTHERAPEIA
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In exploring how the academic term mysticism can be profi tably uti-lized 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. More-over, McGinn is careful to distinguish between mysticism rendered in terms of an episodic experience and what he refers to as “a pro cess or a way of life.”1 Although a distinction can be drawn between mysticism as ...
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The discussion to this point has been directed toward establishing a new chapter in the ongoing psychoanalytic reception history of Augustine’s Confessions. In laying out the argument, I have had oc-casion 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 ...
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...1. See, for example, William B. Parsons, The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism (New York: Oxford University 2. See Bernard McGinn, The Foundations of Mysticism: Origins to the Fift h Century (New York: Crossroad, 1991); John Peter Kenney, The Mysticism of St. 3. Unless otherwise stated, all quotations from the Confessions are taken from ...
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Alexander, Franz. “Buddhistic Training as an Artifi cial Catatonia.” Psychoana-Augustine. The Confessions of St. Augustine. Translated by Rex Warner. New Augustine. The Literal Meaning of Genesis. Vol. 2. Translated and annotated by Badham, Paul. “Religious and Near- Death Experience in Relation to Belief in a Future Life.” Second Series Occasional Paper 13. Oxford: Religious Experience ...
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Studies in Religion and Culture