"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 18, 2019

The Society of Jesus and Saint Sigmund of Vienna

At the august journal of the Society of Jesus, America, you can read my thoughts on four Jesuit psychoanalysts of considerable achievement and many publications. All of them showed, in writing, in practice, and in their lives, that opposition between Freud and Christianity is overblown and frequently hysterical nonsense.

Here I will just expand somewhat on the books that were mentioned there in passing.

The Dominican theologian Victor White spent rather a lot of time engaged in writing to and about Jung, including in his book God and the Unconscious. He seems to have had more patience for engaging Jung that I have ever had. I confess that until I recently re-read Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections, I was still operating under an old prejudice about him from my youth.

Peter J.R. Dempsey was an Irish Franciscan and author of a still useful little book Freud, Psychoanalysis, and Catholicism. It has aged better than I would have thought for a book published in the mid-1950s.

The first major Jesuit I focus on in my article is the late Belgian analyst André Godin, author of many works, not all of them in English. One that is: Psychological Dynamics of Religious Experience.

I mentioned Godin's contemporary, Nina Coltart, who died the same year he did. I was an undergraduate student in psychology in 1992 and read a review (in the Globe and Mail) of Coltart's book Slouching Towards Bethlehem right after it came out. I immediately went and ordered the book, and fell in love with it. (In fact, her chapter on discerning the suitability of analysis for some patients convinced me to seek out Dr Louise Carignan, on whose couch I spent rather a lot of time.) I have read it again more times than I can count and often recommended it. Her other books are equally worth your time.

Peter Rudnytsky (whom I didn't mention in the article, but who is always worth reading) has written a very appreciative chapter devoted to Coltart in his Rescuing Psychoanalysis from Freud and Other Essays in Re-VisionHe also organized and edited a Festschrift for her which is very interesting indeed.

The second Jesuit analyst I discussed was the Irishman Edward Boyd Barrett. Here is one book of his that has been reprinted, but most of his other ones are harder to come by outside specialized libraries. Details about him and his fascinating life are found in Robert Kugelmann's invaluable recent study, Psychology and Catholicism: Contested Boundaries. See also Paula Kane's chapter in the recent collection, Crossings and Dwellings: Restored Jesuits, Women Religious, American Experience, 1814-2014.

I briefly mentioned Ernest Jones, and his recording of what Freud thought of America. That quote shows up in several places, including in this rather enjoyable study of Jones.

I noted that Barrett's downplaying of Freud's uniqueness was evocative of certain practices of Evagrius, who, for my money, was the Christian world's first "analyst." When I teach him, I find Robert Sinkewich's Evagrius of Pontus: the Greek Ascetic Corpus utterly invaluable, both for its translation of primary texts but also for his essays and in particular footnotes about Evagrius.

William Meissner was very prolific as I noted in my essay. Of his books, I focused on two, and would reiterate here the value of both Psychoanalysis and Religious Experience and Freud and Psychoanalysis

Meissner was a friend and colleague of Ana-Maria Rizzuto, about whom I wrote several pieces, starting here. Rizzuto's work has come in for some overdue scholarly attention, as I wrote about here in some detail.

Robert Galatzer-Levy (whose Does Psychoanalysis Work? is extremely valuable) authored a moving tribute to Meissner in The Therapist in Mourning.

The final Jesuit analyst I look at is the contemporary Spaniard Carlos Dominguez-Morano, whom I have discussed on here many times, including here. His latest book Belief After Freud is a stunning work deserving a very wide audience.

Along the way I briefly mentioned several others, including Michael Eigen, one of whose books I discussed here; and Oskar Pfister, briefly discussed here.

Finally I drew attention to Stephen Toulmin and Albert Jonsen's fascinating study, The Abuse of Casuistry, a book now almost thirty years old but very useful in trying to understand Pope Francis, including, as I argued here, the controverted Amoris Laetitia. 

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