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Seminar: Only That Breath Breathing Human Being: Psychoanalysis, Religious Ideation, and Spiritual Experience (Claude Barbre, PhD)

  • 3 Dec 2022
  • 9:00 AM (CST)
  • 4 Dec 2022
  • 1:00 PM (CST)
  • via Zoom


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    If you have already completed the required 30 elective seminars and the clinical case conference requirement, and wish to take additional elective seminars and/or case conferences, you may do so at a reduced fee: one-half the tuition of a full credit seminar. You do not need to register in advance, but if you can, please do so. To register during the academic year, please contact Toula Kourliouros Kalven (tkalven@ccpsa.org).

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Registration is closed

Claude Barbre, PhD

December 2-4, 2022


Seminar Title: Only That Breath Breathing Human Being: Psychoanalysis, Religious Ideation, and Spiritual Experience

Seminar Description: Late in his life, Peter Heller, Anna Freud’s first child patient from the 1920s, critiqued the psychoanalytic movement for its “misjudgment or doctrinaire disregard of cosmic, spiritual, or religious dimensions in a way that limited and diminished humanity. In my child analysis this is suggested by the manner in which religious themes were ignored or set aside, and by blindness or withdrawal vis a vis major nonsexual aspects of existence, the prime instance being the interpretation of my preoccupation with and fear of death as ‘nothing but’ the expression of fear of the father and of my (aggressive, guilt-laden) relationship to him” (Heller, 1992, p. 57). Otto Rank echoed Heller’s experience by writing in 1930s that psychoanalysis was in need of reclaiming “a psychology of soul”—a view that respects and corresponds to the spiritual life of human beings that seek to create meaning in their lives through creative expressions. Rank argued that “a psychology with a soul” underscores that quality in our psychic life is not reducible to material existence or simply the determination of past experience; rather, Rank found an acausal freedom of the human spirit that transcends the principles of strict deterministic causalities-- the so-called “applied objective psychology.” In comparison, Edward Reed remarked, “a science as William James advocated, one based on lived experience, remains conspicuous by its absence,” further saying, “Once the science of psychology arrogates the right to reject out of hand the content of a person’s experience---because it is too inchoate, mystical, or whatever—it can no longer pronounce on the meaning of that experience. Psychology in its present divided state applies at best intermittently and incompletely to the lives most of us lead" (Reed, p.220).

Echoing these comments, Gerald May once lamented that when psychology and religion become engaged, religious views are more often than not annexed by psychology, ending up as “psychologized religion, a religion denuded of its legitimate transcendent focus” (1955). Charles Gerkin suggested a dialogical perspective and hope, saying that “theology is a unique and self-defined mode of discourse with its own traditions, its own rules of language, its own ways of viewing the cosmos and human behavior…. Yet, the languages of other disciplines can be of great assistance to theologians in what has come to be called a mutually critical dialogue" (Gerkin: 1997). Clearly, psychotherapy and spiritual experiences have much to gain by a critical mutual dialogue especially in regard to their shared worlds of hope and healing.

Keeping in mind James Joyce’s remark that “one needs to have a crossroad mind,” we can say that together these great rivers of psychoanalysis, religious ideation, and spiritual experiences create a contextuality constructed from an “intellectual commons” made possible by our views of the individual in a wider socio-cultural setting—a context suggesting a larger, more complex dimension of experience.

Recommended Readings:

1. Barbre, C. (2018). The contrapuntal play of paradox: Alikeness and  difference in the theories of Otto Rank.  In B. Willock, R. C. Curtis, & L. Bohm (Eds.).  Alike / different: Navigating the divide. New York and London: Routledge Press.

2. Eigen, M. (1998). The psychoanalytic mystic. London and New York: Free Association Books.

3. Jones, J. (1991). Contemporary psychoanalysis and religion. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

4. Levine, H. B., and Civitarese, G. (2015). The W.R. Bion tradition: Lines of development -Evolution of theory and practice over the decades. New York and London: Routledge. 

5. Rizzuto, A. (2005). Psychoanalytic treatment and the religious person. In            Shafranske, E. (2005), Religion and the clinical practice of psychology.                       Washington, D.C., American Psychological Association.

6. Menaker, E. (1995). The self-object as immoral self. In The Freedom to Inquire.    Northvale: Jason Aronson.

7. Shafranske, E and Maloney, H. N. (1996). Religion and clinical practice of psychology: A case for inclusion. In Shafranske, E. (2005), Religion and the clinical practice of psychology. Washington, D.C., American Psychological  Association.

8. Lawrence, M. M. (1987). The integration of psychoanalysis in one life story. Paper presented at the 31st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, May 10, 1987, Chicago, IL.

9. Ulanov, A., and Ulanov. B. (1975). Religion and the unconscious. New York: Westminster John Knox Press.

10. Holmes, J. (2014). The therapeutic imagination. New York and London: Routledge.

"Nothing human is alien to me"  --Terrence

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