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Meissner, W.W., S.J. (1991). In the Image of God: A Psychoanalyst's View: By Stanley A. Leavy. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988, xv + 112 pp., $17.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 39:288-290.

(1991). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 39:288-290

In the Image of God: A Psychoanalyst's View: By Stanley A. Leavy. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1988, xv + 112 pp., $17.95.

Review by:
W. W. Meissner, S.J.

This is a small but elegant volume of more or less personal reflections on the part of a distinguished and experienced psychoanalyst who professes himself unhesitatingly as a believing Christian. Not only is Leavy's approach refreshing and thought-provoking, but it reveals a probing mind that finds little surcease in the usual and conventional ways of looking at life and reality. His exposition of some of the fundamental psychoanalytic ideas is solid, thoughtful, and cast in clear, plain language that engages as it informs. His primary audience was a group of lay people, and I have no doubt that they appreciated his lucid exposition of difficult analytic theories. He offers us a rich mix of personal reflections, analytic insights, meditative probings of some of the fundamental complexities of human life—especially those involved in man's religious conviction and destiny.

The work took its origin, as Leavy tells us, from a series of lectures delivered to an educated audience of church members—all interested and concerned believers. They required no apologetic for religion, a circumstance that allowed Leavy to develop his psychoanalytic vision of humankind as God's children cast in the image of God. The result is a conception of psychoanalytic man as open to the divine and as carrying within himself the stamp of his relation to his maker. The strange harmonics of this melody fall on psychoanalytic ears unaccustomed to such religious attunements. Freud would doubtless have rejected the argument out of hand, or even have written another agnostic masterpiece to counter such nonscientific nonsense—as he did in his counterargument against his friend Oscar Pfister. We could imagine a pamphlet on "The Image of Man" to counter Leavy's image of God.

We can be assured that Leavy's argument will seem alien to many analysts, and for many others will simply fall on deaf ears. Freud himself, as you remember, had no ear for music. But Leavy makes no apologies. He takes his cue from Thomas Browne's Religio Medici, a work by an English physician who antedated Freud by two centuries. They share the basic conviction that the scientific study of nature, particularly human nature, leads toward and intensifies faith in God rather than the opposite.

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