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Sugerman, S. (1974-75). Sin and Madness: A Transformation of Consciousness. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(4):497-516.

(1974-75). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(4):497-516

Sin and Madness: A Transformation of Consciousness

Shirley Sugerman, Ph.D.

There is under way today a crisis in self-understanding; this we have heard often enough. I should like to look at it from the particular perspective of the transformation of our understanding of madness, itself a descriptive term for the crisis. This is the way that Ronald Laing, the Scottish psychiatrist, described the crisis:

We are bemused and crazed creatures, strangers to our true selves, to one another, and to the spiritual and material world—mad, even from an ideal standpoint we can glimpse but not adopt.10a

However, “the requirement of the present … is to provide a thoroughly self-conscious and self-critical human account of man,” Laing goes on to say, for

humanity is estranged from its authentic possibilities. This basic vision prevents us from taking any unequivocal view of the sanity of common sense, or of the madness of the so-called madman.10b

We live “not only like other creatures in divers elements, but in divided and distinguished worlds.”10c What is required, then, is more than outcry and outrage; we must find out how it is that this has become so, that we ask what we have made of what we are—in other words, what we have done with our freedom. In fact, in a world which some have characterized as the age of the death of God, we might ask if what we have done with our freedom has not also resulted in what might well be called the death of man.

[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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