"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Psychoanalysis and Spiritual Direction

As I've had occasion on here to note several times, there grew up in certain Eastern Christian circles a deep suspicion of modern psychology. Some of that may be justified; some of it is part of a broader anti-intellectualism and anti-Westernism; and some of it is certainly unjust and founded on little more than ignorance and fear.

At the same time, of course, there has long been an anti-"religious" sentiment running through Freudian thought, though that has never troubled me for I have long adhered to the assessment of (if memory serves....) Christopher Lasch, who seems to have said that as a clinician Freud gave us startling, original, and useful insights; but as a cultural theorist he was totally out of his depth. Just so.

Among Christians who wanted to engage rather than dismiss psychoanalytic thought (and, let it be noted, there are many more "schools" than the Freudian, most of them at least a little less dismissive of religious traditions), Western Christians have a longer tradition of attempting to engage Freud and the psychoanalytic tradition, an engagement that continues in a book I recently noted on here, Marcus Pound's Theology, Psychoanalysis and Trauma.

That engagement continues apace, as seen in this forthcoming paperback edition by Peter Tyler,The Pursuit of the Soul: Psychoanalysis, Soul-making and the Christian Tradition (T&T Clark, 2016), 208pp.

As the publisher tells us: 
One of the most striking features of contemporary psychology is the return of language of the 'soul' in contemporary discourse. In this original analysis Dr Peter Tyler investigates the origins and use of 'soul-language' in the Christian tradition before turning his attention to the evolution and preoccupations of modern psychoanalysis. In his forensic examination he explores the dynamics of psychoanalysis as a 'tool to rediscover the soul' of the 21st century seeker. Central to his book is the perceived clash between analysis and the spiritual tradition. His uncompromising conclusion is that the dialogue of the two in our present time will have far-reaching repercussions for church, society and future human well-being.

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