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Marcus, P. (2000). The Wisdom of Ecclesiastes and its Meaning for Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Rev., 87(2):227-250.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Review, 87(2):227-250

The Wisdom of Ecclesiastes and its Meaning for Psychoanalysis

Paul Marcus, Ph.D.

For some time now, I have been interested in understanding the mode of being-in-the-world of the homo religiosis with an eye to gaining insights about the human condition that could be applied in some form to the enhancement of psychoanalytic theory and practice. In a previous article I suggested that in the Nazi concentration camps devout Jewish inmates and Jehovah's Witnesses fared better in terms of maintaining their autonomy and integration, and remaining human than did the secular psychoanalytical intellectual. I suggested that psychoanalysis could benefit from further exploring the life-affirming transcendent beliefs and values, strong moral convictions, and communal associations of the religious inmates of concentration camps (Marcus, 1998).

This article continues in this direction by looking at one of the most profound, subversive, and beautiful books in the Hebrew Bible, Ecclesiastes, known as Koheleth (“member of the assembly”) in Hebrew. The author of Ecclesiastes does not present a consistently thought-out system or logical structure in his reflections; rather, in his brief talks, parables, Maxims, and proverbs we are presented with a series of free associations on the meaning of existence, the good that people can achieve in life, and the problematics of attaining or creating an enduring sense of personal happiness.

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