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Morvay, Z. (1999). Horney, Zen, and the Real Self: Theoretical and Historical Connections. Am. J. Psychoanal., 59(1):25-35.

(1999). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 59(1):25-35

Horney, Zen, and the Real Self: Theoretical and Historical Connections

Zoltan Morvay, Psy.D.

This paper surveys much of the historical evidence concerning Karen Horney's interests in Zen Buddhism. Areas where Horney integrated Zen into her theoretical conceptions are also examined. Moreover, the author follows Horney's lead by making additional theoretical connections between Zen and the real self.

Within the ideological frame of “modern science,” Freudian psychoanalysis emerged to replace religion as a method of mind healing (Mitchell, 1993). Freud's most radical attempt to explain mental functioning in scientific terms was exemplified by his Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895). The goal was “to furnish a psychology that shall be a natural science: that is to represent psychical processes as quantifiable determinate states of specifiable material particles” (Freud, 1895, p. 295; Sulloway, 1979, p. 116). Although the Freudian system evolved, it continued to operate within the basic assumptions of this model. The paradigm sought scientific objectivity by grounding itself in biologic/instinctual-based hypotheses of personality development and psychopathology (Mitchell, 1993; Sulloway, 1979).

Given this positivist bent, Freud's model for mental health idealized the rationality and logic of the ego (Mitchell, 1993). It is no surprise therefore that Freud regarded the teachings and methods of religious paradigms as irrational and antithetical to a “scientifically” based psychotherapy. Mystic and spiritual experiences were simply considered to be regressive in nature.

One well-known example was Freud's reaction to Romain Rolland's mystical experience of being “limitless, unbounded,” and one with the world.

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