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Schlossman, H.H. (1998). Ultimate Intimacy. The Psychodynamics of Jewish Mysticism. By Mortimer Ostow. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1995. 412 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 67(2):338-339.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(2):338-339

Ultimate Intimacy. The Psychodynamics of Jewish Mysticism. By Mortimer Ostow. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1995. 412 pp.

Review by:
Howard H. Schlossman

Mysticism as an aspect of religion has occupied the thoughts of many scholars. Mortimer Ostow offers a psychoanalyst's view of the psychodynamics of mysticism. It is a serious contribution to group psychology, particularly with regard to the shared fantasies that serve to create and maintain religious movements. He brings a psychoanalytic perspective derived from work with the mental dynamics of the individual to analyze the similarities in group process; and he has brought together well-regarded contributors from psychoanalysis and religious studies to comment on his observations.

This is not an attempt to examine all aspects of religion. Ostow holds his topic to mysticism in Jewish religion, best known as the Kaballah. All religious movements at some time in their history develop a mystical component: the Kaballists among the Jews, the Sufi among the Moslems, and the evangelical sects among the Christians. All religious fundamentalist groups become mystical. They have “a forceful charismatic leader” and “as they gain following and power, they tend to become politically active and aggressive” (p. 11).

The author's wide experience in psychoanalysis, comparative religion, and Hebraic studies permits him to draw on the parallels between the psychotic fantasies and behavior of individuals and the writings of biblical prophets, apocalyptic revelations, and concerns with the “end of time, world destruction and rebirth of only the good” (e.g., Noah and the Flood).

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