The psychoanalytic study of religion has until now been dominated by a Freudian perspective that views the religious experience as a one-way transference, where the devotee projects his instinctually based childhood wishes, fears, and behaviors onto a religious construct. In this path-breaking book, James W. Jones, a clinical psychologist and professor of religion, challenges this view. Building on more recent theories in which the self is construed as a matrix of internalized relationships, he investigates ways in which religious beliefs, practices, and experiences reflect the structure of the relational self.
Drawing on both theory and practice, Jones not only reviews the relevant psychoanalytic literature but also illustrates his thesis with an in-depth discussion of four clinical cases. He examines models of transference since Freud by Fairbairn, Kohut, Gill, and Roland, and he describes previous applications of psychoanalysis to religion by Rizzuto, Winnicott, and Kohut. He concludes by discussing the nature of religion, bringing such theologians, philosophers, and psychoanalysts as Otto, Bollas, Tillich, and Buber into a multi-disciplinary dialogue.
The book will give the scholar and student of religious studies the latest psychoanalytic theories and demonstrate their relevance for religious studies. It will also help the clinician grasp the role of religion in human life.