Men, Religion, and Melancholia: James, Otto, Jung, and Eriksson

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Yale University Press, 1997 M01 1 - 235 pages
It is not by coincidence that the key figures in the psychology of religion-William James, Rudolph Otto, Carl Jung, and Erik Erikson-each fought a lifelong battle with melancholia, argues Donald Capps in this engrossing book. These four men experienced similar traumas in early childhood: each perceived a loss of mother's unconditional love. In the deep melancholy that resulted, they turned to religion. Capps contends that the main impetus for men to become religious lies in such melancholia, and that these four authors were typical, although their losses were especially severe because of complicating personal circumstances. Offering a new way of viewing the major classics in the psychology of religion, Capps explores the psychological origins of these authors' own religious visions through a sensitive examination of their writings.Using Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia" and "The Uncanny" as interpretive keys, the author explores James's The Varieties of Religious Experience, Otto's The Idea of the Holy, Jung's Answer to Job, and Erikson's Young Man Luther. All four texts address in significant ways the role of melancholy in religion, says Capps, and he emphasizes that melancholy is central to the authors' ways of understanding religion. Each developed an unconventional or idiosyncratic religious vision in the search for a means to address his psychological loss and to reverse or transcend its effects. Capps assesses the adequacy of each author's religious views, recommends forms of religion best suited to melancholiacs, and also considers the role that a father surrogate can play in helping a young man cope with melancholia, as did Samuel Johnson with James Boswell.


The Varieties of Religious Experience
The Idea of the Holy
Vision in Answer to Job
The Parabolic Fault Line

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