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Piers, G. (1983). The Three Superegos of the Western World: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Judaism, Catholicism, and Calvinism. Ann. Psychoanal., 11:335-350.
    

(1983). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 11:335-350

V Psychoanalysis and Religion

The Three Superegos of the Western World: Psychoanalytic Reflections on Judaism, Catholicism, and Calvinism

Gerhart Piers, M.D.

It is not easy to define the exact topic of my presentation. I am not talking about religion as such, about religious history, religious dogmas, and the like. Anyone familiar with these subjects will find holes in my thesis. If I am not dealing with theologies, neither am I exactly concerned with value systems. These are, after all, only aspects of what the Germans call so beautifully Weltanschauung, the way to perceive the world. The fact is that all aspects of personality, including behavior, are inextricably interwoven and embedded in the social environment, and when we use one approach, we have to abstract, reduce, and simplify.

What I am interested in is the relationship between the individual superego (plus ego ideal) and the collective superego, the latter largely synonymous with “culture.” Out of the fabric of today's culture, I will take three distinct strains which can be traced in their reflections in the individual, on the couch, and in everyday experience.

Ours is still a Judeo-Christian culture, although that is difficult to see in a world of technology and comfort. Perhaps some of our popular culture would have to be described as no-culture, some of it as reaction formations to or degenerations from the “basic culture.”

A word or two about the influence of ancient Greece which is usually claimed as a direct ancestor of our culture.

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