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Roland, A. (1971-72). Psychoanalysis and History: A Quest for Integration: Gandhi's Truth: On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence. Erik H. Erikson New York: W. W. Norton, 1969. 448.. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(4):631-639.

(1971-72). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(4):631-639

Special Book Review

Psychoanalysis and History: A Quest for Integration: Gandhi's Truth: On the Origins of Militant Nonviolence. Erik H. Erikson New York: W. W. Norton, 1969. 448.

Review by:
Alan Roland, Ph.D.

Perhaps the least discussed but most crucial talent of an analyst derives from his ability to expand his ego boundaries to become empathically in touch with a wide diversity of patients' personalities. To a remarkable degree, Erik Erikson has performed this feat not only with a great spiritual-political leader, Gandhi, but also with a culture and society so vastly different from our own. The book's relevance for today is enormous. In a nuclear age, where violence is increasingly untenable but where social change is rapid and social confrontation increasing, the need for an alternative nonviolent approach to social action is critical.

In another vein, the book's insightful description of Indian culture with its historical view of the forces of colonialism and the counterforces of national revival should not be lost on us today. It is precisely because of our ignorance of these forces and the nature of Asian societies that the United States is so tragically and unnecessarily involved in Indo-China.

One should also appreciate Erikson's ability to be in touch with and do research on such a man as Gandhi and in such a culture as India. This is the essential ability to recognize “presence.” For without this, as Erikson early realized, he would get little response from his Indian informants. There is no question, for anyone who has been in their presence, that spiritual leaders do have a “presence.” This in itself may have profound effects on some people, as Gandhi did on a number of disciples.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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