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Black, D.M. (1993). Religious Objects as Psychological Structures: A Critical Integration of Object Relations Theory, Psychotherapy, and Judaism: By Moshe Halevi Spero. Chicago and London: The Chicago University Press. 1992. Pp. 242.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 74:1085-1087.
(1993). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 74:1085-1087
Religious Objects as Psychological Structures: A Critical Integration of Object Relations Theory, Psychotherapy, and Judaism: By Moshe Halevi Spero. Chicago and London: The Chicago University Press. 1992. Pp. 242.
Review by: David M. Black
One difficulty confronting the psychoanalytic writer who in some way wants to 'defend' religion against the conventional analytic dismissal, is to know what exactly he wants to defend. Is he merely stating the obvious fact that some believers have excellent human qualities and seem to be reasonably non-neurotic? Is he wanting to go further, and say that religious belief has contributed to this happy state of affairs? Does he want to argue (like Jung) that to confront religious issues is an essential element in human self-development or 'wholeness'? Or (like William James) that religious ideas have a 'psychological truth', irrespective of any other truth they may possess? Or does he want to take the religious bull by the horns and say that religion speaks of an objective reality different from, and far greater than, those spoken of by traditional psychoanalysis (which would be, I presume, the position of the 'naive believer')?
In this very scholarly, responsible and passionate book, Moshe Halevi Spero affirms the last of these positions. He writes as an orthodox Jew and a psychoanalytic therapist, and is also clearly a considerable scholar in both of his huge traditions. I am aware that in my comments I shall do no justice to the impressive range of his scholarship.
He begins by dismissing the hermeneutic approach to either religion or psychoanalysis: such an approach, he says (rightly, in my view), costs both science and religion their moral force. But he recognises two sorts of object-representations of God: one derived primarily from human interaction ('god-representations'), the other based on interaction with an objective God ('God-representations').
He is quite uncompromising about God's objective reality and otherness from the believer. God is an 'objective object' with whom we can have a relationship on precise analogy with another person. There is 'an actual form of interchange between a human and a veridically existing divinity' (p.
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