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Ornstein, P.H. (1996). Ultimate Intimacy—The Psychodynamics Of Jewish Mysticism. By Mortimer Ostow (With contributions by Jacob A. Arlow, Martin Bergmann, Eleanor Galenson, David J. Halperin, Moshe Idel, Peter B. Neubauer, Elliot R. Wolfson). Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1995, 412 pp., $62.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:999-1000.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:999-1000

Ultimate Intimacy—The Psychodynamics Of Jewish Mysticism. By Mortimer Ostow (With contributions by Jacob A. Arlow, Martin Bergmann, Eleanor Galenson, David J. Halperin, Moshe Idel, Peter B. Neubauer, Elliot R. Wolfson). Madison, CT: Int. Univ. Press, 1995, 412 pp., $62.50.

Review by:
Paul H. Ornstein

This comprehensive, well-written, scholarly monograph is an important contribution to the psychoanalytic literature because it deals with widespread, irrational dimensions of human experience: the various forms of mysticism and its allied states. These have not been examined in such depth and breadth jointly by psychoanalysts and Judaic scholars before.

The author has chosen to examine the Jewish varieties of mysticism, to narrow and make more manageable a very large field, in collaboration with other, well-known psychoanalysts and Judaic scholars. The findings are presented as paradigmatic for the depth-psychologic understanding of the origin, structure, and function of all varieties of mysticism—whatever their differences may be. Ostow's skillful and creative synthesis of psychoanalytic ideas with historical-textual knowledge of the field of mysticism (aided by his collaborators), make this volume an example of a successful application of psychoanalytic ideas to the field of mysticism. The writing is easily accessible to the clinician and Ostow's formulations are bound to expand and deepen the reader's psychoanalytic horizon—whether he agrees with them or arrives at some alternative understanding of his own.

In addition, this monograph is also timely. The various phenomena encompassed by mysticism are currently extremely widespread. Because of the increasing threat of fundamentalism of all colors (a variety of apocalyptic mysticism), delving into the history, evolution, and psychodynamics of these phenomena is therefore of immediate clinical-practical importance, beyond the intellectual pleasure that accrues from reading the masterfully crafted chapters in this volume. (Halperin's treatment of methodology and Ostow's response to it, for example, is a delight for those interested in the problems of applied psychoanalysis.)

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