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Merchant, J. (2012). Robbins, M. The Primordial Mind in Health and Illness: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. London: Routledge, 2011. Pp. xii + 240. Hbk. £54.00; Pbk. £19.79.. J. Anal. Psychol., 57(1):125-126.

(2012). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 57(1):125-126

Robbins, M. The Primordial Mind in Health and Illness: A Cross-Cultural Perspective. London: Routledge, 2011. Pp. xii + 240. Hbk. £54.00; Pbk. £19.79.

Review by:
John Merchant

The culmination of years of research, Robbins' book makes a compelling case for the existence of ‘primordial mental activity’ (PMA) as a distinct form of mental functioning that is separate from and predates the development of rational thought in all persons. PMA is understood to begin at the inception of life and to continue functioning throughout life as a separate and qualitatively different sensory-perceptual-affective way of knowing characterized by somatic sensation so that it is felt as absolute, concrete, holistic, emphasizing belief rather than meaning. We continue to experience PMA through our dreaming experience.

Compared to rational thought, PMA operates by an entirely different kind of ‘logic’ based on connections between inner affective states which are developmentally appropriate so that Robbins argues PMA should not be considered ‘pathological’, ‘primitive’ or ‘irrational’. Rather, over time, it either becomes integrated with or dissociated from rational thought, the outcomes from which can elucidate an extraordinarily diverse range of human phenomena like infant mind, early attachment, dreaming, creativity, the use of language and psychosis. Furthermore, PMA can inform our understanding of cultural differences since more socio-centric spiritual cultures tend to value the insights gained from it (as in shamanism).

Robbins particularly critiques theorists like Freud, Klein and Bion who tended to view early infant mentality in a psychopathological way succinctly expressed by Money-Kyrle (1969, p.

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