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Salman, S. (2014). Tacey, David. Gods and Diseases: Making Sense of our Physical and Mental Wellbeing. London: Routledge, 2013. Pp. 260. Hbk £90, Pbk £29.99.. J. Anal. Psychol., 59(5):723-725.

(2014). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 59(5):723-725

Tacey, David. Gods and Diseases: Making Sense of our Physical and Mental Wellbeing. London: Routledge, 2013. Pp. 260. Hbk £90, Pbk £29.99.

Review by:
Sherry Salman

This volume is the tenth in David Tacey's series of books that explore spiritual meaning in today's world. A professor of literature at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Dr. Tacey follows Jung's thread that ‘the gods have become diseases’, exploring collective health not as a scientist or as a clinician, but as a cultural analyst in search of meaning. The pathologies he examines— sexual dysfunction, incest and child abuse, cancer phobia as a back door to soul, alcoholism, depression, self-harm and suicidal impulses—are viewed as diseases of the spirit and loss of soul, in the tradition of archetypal medicine.

Tacey's point of view is accessible to the general Jungian readership, and to those interested in depth psychotherapy. The underlying assumptions are that illness and disease have a purpose, that they are not random occurrences, that Western culture has lost its connection to soul and spirit, and that illness and disease offer both an invitation to face the fact that one may not have been living as one's true self and a way to recover soul. In short, that illness —despite what Susan Sontag maintained—is a metaphor. The prescription offered for individual and collective healing is summarized thus: 1) Stop cursing and get used to the fact that forces are at work in our lives and diseases, 2) Befriend the alien impulses and attempt to understand their shape and character, 3) Integrate the lost or rejected aspects of your being that these forces represent, and 4) Allow them to change your life so that their will can be fulfilled (p. 49).

The book's argument for a relationship between soul and disease is most personal and most persuasive when it is grounded in Dr. Tacey's considerable and heartfelt experience of Australian and Aboriginal culture, wherein the collapse of vibrant collective cosmology and initiatory ritual has resulted in immediate and widespread misery. In one of the most compelling chapters of Gods and Diseases,Depression, self harm and suicide’, Tacey describes his meeting with a spirit doctor of the Pitjantjatjara people who when asked about the high rate of suicide amongst adolescent boys in his community responded that there was too much worry about preventing suicide and not enough worry ‘about showing these boys how to die in ceremony’ (p. 163).

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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