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Ahlskog, G. (1993). Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Religion: Transference and Transcendence. James W. Jones. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991, 144 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 80(2):311-313.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Review, 80(2):311-313


Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Religion: Transference and Transcendence. James W. Jones. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991, 144 pp.

Review by:
Gary Ahlskog, Ph.D.

In this short book James W. Jones provides distillations of the views of over 15 theorists and 3 theologians, with emphasis given to Winnicott and Kohut. Particulars of religious experience are noted where feasible within an overall discussion of developmental dynamics and adult experience. Sometimes Jones is meticulous in this task. For example, Meissner's use of transitional as a predicate referring to objects on the boundary between inner and outer is differentiated from Winnicott's use of this term to designate the object's function in facilitating movement from infantile subjectivism to adult objectivity (pp. 41-42). Rizzuto's emphasis on internalized objects as (mutable) perceptual memories and representations is contrasted with Winnicott's focus on internalized object-relationships as forerunners of the adult's creative capacities (pp. 45-47). The result of these efforts is an overview of the object-relations and self-psychological currents in our recent intellectual history.

The concept of transcendence, heralded in the tide, disappears in the text in deference to a discussion of developmental transformations. Jones builds from the Kohutian premise that a self only exists within a selfobject matrix plus die Winnicottian premise diat diere can be no final sortings between objectivity and subjectivity. Additional contributions from Bollas, Buber, and Loewald are interwoven to reach die following thesis: Transformation of a person's religious experience (from childish or pathological to audientically mature) would entail recovering a kind of primary process capacity to personalize fresh encounters with objects (persons, nature, music, symbols, God representations) that recapitulate basic needs and are nominated as sacred because they promote rebirth (different experiencing) of self in relation to world.

This complex line of thinking is one widi which I am in basic agreement (Ahlskog, 1990). All patients can discuss the God they do not believe in (Jones, p. 14). All experiences of self and world invariably contain some type of “affective bond widi the sacred” (p.

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