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Meissner, W.W. (1990). Guilt and Desire. Religious Attitudes and their Pathological Derivatives: By Antoine Vergote. Translated by M. H. Wood. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1988. 254 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 59:154-156.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:154-156

Guilt and Desire. Religious Attitudes and their Pathological Derivatives: By Antoine Vergote. Translated by M. H. Wood. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1988. 254 pp.

Review by:
W. W. Meissner

This monograph presents a masterful statement of the dialectical tensions existing between religious and psychoanalytic understanding. Vergote comes to his task well equipped. He has been a professor at the Catholic University of Louvain for a good many years, teaching philosophy, psychology, and religion. More to the point, his understanding of psychoanalysis is profound and the grounding of his religious and theological thinking is firm and sound. In the course of the years of his teaching and psychological experience, Vergote has established himself as one of the foremost interpreters of religious experience in psychoanalytic terms. Some American readers may remember his The Religious Man of a few years ago.

Vergote has written a psychoanalytic book—one that is best read with psychoanalytic eyes. The psychoanalytic matrix from which he addresses us is French, basically from the Parisian school. It is the intellectual world of Lacan, Dolto, Foucault, Lévi-Strauss, Merleau-Ponty, Lhermitte, and Hesnard, to name a few. The American, and even the English, psychoanalytic literature is cited not at all. But behind the flow of the argument, and often enough in the center of attention, is the spirit and the word of Freud. Vergote is not preoccupied with the hermeneutic obsession—his focus is on the human phenomenon, particularly with reference to its religious investments and their pathological distortions.

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