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Leavy, S.A. (1967). The Psychology of Religious Experiences: By Erwin R. Goodenough. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1965. 192 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 36:292-293.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:292-293

The Psychology of Religious Experiences: By Erwin R. Goodenough. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1965. 192 pp.

Review by:
Stanley A. Leavy

This little book by the late Professor Goodenough, the distinguished Yale historian of Hellenistic Judaism, is written in the tradition of James and Freud. The three men understood religion as a means of adaptation to the contradictions and frustrations of human existence. Moving with James, Goodenough here bases religion on the divisions within the self which partly shape, partly reflect these contradictions and frustrations, and he adds to the typology of James a wide series of forms in which religion repeatedly appears. He calls them Legalism, Supralegalism, Orthodoxy, Supraorthodoxy, Aestheticism, Symbolism and Sacramentalism, and Mysticism, and illustrates them in both individual and institutional religion.

Following Freud, Goodenough examines the 'divided self' as ego, id, and superego. The ego not only in all its weakness confronts an ultimately incomprehensible totality of existence, the 'tremendum', it must also come to terms with the frustrations imposed on the limitless desires of the id by the internalized claims of social life. A religious solution is found in the configuration of meaning projected on the 'curtain' which forever limits knowledge and contains aspiration.

As a historian Professor Goodenough contributes to psychoanalytic thought in his chapter on The Divided Self in Greco-Roman Religion. Here he demonstrates in quotations from classical mythology and philosophy some of the problems of inner conflict which psychoanalysis attempts to elaborate and explain. A vivid example of the mythological formulation of such a problem is in the Seventh Homeric Hymn, in which, in the language of popular Orphism, the ego overcomes the divisions through the direct acceptance of the ideal, the god Dionysus.

While Goodenough appropriated the essential principles of The Future of an Illusion and to a lesser extent, Civilization and Its Discontents, he was perhaps even less of a freudian than he believed, and his ambivalent attitude toward psychoanalysis is manifest.

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