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Leavy, S.A. (2009). Crucified with Christ: Meditation on the Passion, Mystical Death, and the Medieval Invention of Psychotherapy. By Dan Merkur. New York: State University of New York Press, 2007, 156 pp., $55.00. Centers of Power: The Convergence of Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah. By Joseph H. Berke and Stanley Schneider. New York: Jason Aronson, 2008, 254 pp., $29.95.Into the Mountain Stream: Psychotherapy and Buddhist Experience. Edited by Paul C. Cooper. New York: Jason Aronson, 2007, 192 pp., $41.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(2):477-489.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(2):477-489

Book Essay: Psychoanalysis and Religious Mysticism

Crucified with Christ: Meditation on the Passion, Mystical Death, and the Medieval Invention of Psychotherapy. By Dan Merkur. New York: State University of New York Press, 2007, 156 pp., $55.00. Centers of Power: The Convergence of Psychoanalysis and Kabbalah. By Joseph H. Berke and Stanley Schneider. New York: Jason Aronson, 2008, 254 pp., $29.95.Into the Mountain Stream: Psychotherapy and Buddhist Experience. Edited by Paul C. Cooper. New York: Jason Aronson, 2007, 192 pp., $41.95.

Review by:
Stanley A. Leavy

Of the three volumes under discussion in this essay, one, by Dan Merkur, a veteran in these studies, concerns a shift in the fourteenth century within Christian mystical theology, when the traditional concern for spiritual access to supernatural beings and locations gave way to concern for the effects of divine grace as mediated inwardly. The change was not limited to the small groups of ascetics with whom it originated earlier, grandly exemplified by Francis of Assisi, but was part of a general inward turn in Christian devotion.

Methods of meditation proposed and developed in this period, as by James of Milan (late thirteenth, early fourteenth century), and his probable translator Walter Hilton (ca. 1340-1396), encouraged the use of mental imagery of the Passion — the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ — accompanied by appropriate emotions, and a degree of identification with Christ on the cross. The effectiveness of the method depended on wholehearted participation, with awakened consciousness of the individual's sinfulness, which was to be “crucified” in the imagination. Merkur sees here a striking resemblance to the recognition — unwelcome, but necessary — by the patient in analysis, of hitherto disowned parts of his or her personality. Images arising spontaneously during free association are subjected to meditation, as were the assigned Biblical images; that is, we also are called to think about thoughts.

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