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Spezzano, C. (1994). Illusion, Faith, and Knowledge: Commentary on Sorenson's “Ongoing Change in Psychoanalytic Theory”. Psychoanal. Dial., 4(4):661-665.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 4(4):661-665

Illusion, Faith, and Knowledge: Commentary on Sorenson's “Ongoing Change in Psychoanalytic Theory” Related Papers

Charles Spezzano, Ph.D.

This essay opens up an important area in the study of the unconscious too long treated in an offhanded way by many psychoanalysts. The author's main arguments are stated most clearly in the concluding section: (1) if you start out believing that all patients with religious faith are deluded, then their God stories—however creative and psychically useful—will, of course, seem silly to you; (2) illusion is psychically useful; (3) translations of Freud make him seem even less aware of the human need for concepts like “soul” than he appears in the original German; (4) psychoanalysis has become unpositivistic (which actually leads to a restatement of point 2); (5) even this new, unpositivistic psychoanalytic epistemology can go only so far (not far enough) in being empathically attuned to lived religious experience; (6) the instilling of the new psychoanalytic epistemology in the minds of analytic candidates could be aided by adding the kinds of courses offered to contemporary theology students, courses on intellectual history, hermeneutics, and the like; and (7) dogma is not an inherent liability to constructing a useful account in any domain of human understanding—it is a necessity.

From these arguments I think we can distill two main theses: (1) illusions are good representations (progressive, not regressive) developmentally; and (2) the representation of God is good because (or when) it keeps evolving as a person matures.


Charles Spezzano, a training and supervising analyst at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, has written Affect in Psychoanalysis: A Clinical Synthesis (The Analytic Press) and What to Do Between Birth and Death. He is editing Soul on the Couch (The Analytic Press) and is coediting (with J. Reppen and J. Tucker) The Handbook of Psychoanalytic Psychology.

© 1994 The Analytic Press

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