Psychoanalysis
Resources

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
A Basic Theory of NeuropsychoanalysisA Cursing Brain?A Dream of Undying FameA Map of the MindAfter LacanAgainst AdaptationAgainst FreudAn Anatomy of AddictionAnalytic FreudAndré Green at the Squiggle FoundationAnger, Madness, and the DaimonicAnna FreudAnna Freud: A BiographyApproaching PsychoanalysisAttachment and PsychoanalysisBadiouBecoming a SubjectBefore ForgivingBerlin PsychoanalyticBetween Emotion and CognitionBeyond GenderBeyond SexualityBeyond the Pleasure PrincipleBiology of FreedomBoundaries and Boundary Violations in PsychoanalysisBuilding on BionCare of the PsycheCarl JungCassandra's DaughterCherishmentConfusion of TonguesContemporary Psychoanalysis and the Legacy of the Third ReichCrucial Choices, Crucial ChangesCulture and Conflict in Child and Adolescent Mental HealthDarwin's WormsDesert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974)Dispatches from the Freud WarsDoes the Woman Exist?Doing Psychoanalysis in TehranDreaming and Other Involuntary MentationDreaming by the BookEnergy Psychology InteractiveEqualsErrant SelvesEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationFairbairn's Object Relations Theory in the Clinical SettingFed with Tears -- Poisoned with MilkFeminism and Its DiscontentsForms of Intersubjectivity in Infant Reasearch and Adult TreatmentFour Lessons of PsychoanalysisFratricide in the Holy LandFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreudFreud and the Question of PseudoscienceFreud As PhilosopherFreud at 150Freud's AnswerFreud's WizardFreud, the Reluctant PhilosopherFrom Classical to Contemporary PsychoanalysisFundamentals of Psychoanalytic TechniqueGenes on the CouchGoing SaneHans BellmerHappiness, Death, and the Remainder of LifeHate and Love in Psychoanalytical InstitutionsHatred and ForgivenessHealing the Soul in the Age of the BrainHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHidden MindsHistory of ShitHope and Dread in PsychoanalysisImagination and Its PathologiesImagine There's No WomanIn Freud's TracksIn SessionIn the Floyd ArchivesIntimaciesIntimate RevoltIrrationalityIs Oedipus Online?Jacques LacanJacques Lacan and the Freudian Practice of PsychoanalysisJung and the Making of Modern PsychologyJung Stripped BareKilling FreudLacanLacanLacanLacan and Contemporary FilmLacan at the SceneLacan For BeginnersLacan in AmericaLacan TodayLacan's Seminar on AnxietyLawLearning from Our MistakesLove's ExecutionerMad Men and MedusasMale Female EmailMelanie KleinMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMental SlaveryMind to MindMixing MindsMoral StealthMourning and ModernityMovies and the MindMurder in ByzantiumNew Studies of Old VillainsNocturnesNoir AnxietyOn Being Normal and Other DisordersOn BeliefOn IncestOn Not Being Able to SleepOn the Freud WatchOn the Way HomeOpen MindedOpera's Second DeathOvercoming Destructive Beliefs, Feelings, and BehaviorsPhenomology & Lacan on Schizophrenia, After the Decade of the BrainPhilosophical Counselling and the UnconsciousPractical Psychoanalysis for Therapists and PatientsPsychiatry, Psychoanalysis, And The New Biology Of MindPsychoanalysisPsychoanalysis and Narrative MedicinePsychoanalysis and NeurosciencePsychoanalysis and the Philosophy of SciencePsychoanalysis as Biological SciencePsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis at the MarginsPsychoanalysis in a New LightPsychoanalysis in FocusPsychology, Psychotherapy, Psychoanalysis, and the Politics of Human RelationshipsPsychotherapy As PraxisPutnam CampQuestions for FreudRe-Inventing the SymptomReading Seminar XXReinventing the SoulRelational Theory and the Practice of PsychotherapyRelationalityRepressed SpacesRevolt, She SaidSecrets of the SoulSerious ShoppingSex on the CouchSexuationSigmund FreudSoul Murder RevisitedSpectral EvidenceSpirit, Mind, and BrainStrangers to OurselvesSubjective Experience and the Logic of the OtherSubjectivity and OthernessSubstance Abuse As SymptomSurrealist Painters and PoetsTaboo SubjectsTalk is Not EnoughThe Art of the SubjectThe Brain and the Inner WorldThe Brain, the Mind and the SelfThe Cambridge Companion to LacanThe Challenge for Psychoanalysis and PsychotherapyThe Clinical LacanThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Condition of MadnessThe Couch and the TreeThe Cruelty of DepressionThe Dissociative Mind in PsychoanalysisThe Dreams of InterpretationThe Examined LifeThe Fall Of An IconThe Freud EncyclopediaThe Freud FilesThe Freud WarsThe Fright of Real TearsThe Future of PsychoanalysisThe Gift of TherapyThe Heart & Soul of ChangeThe Knotted SubjectThe Last Good FreudianThe Letters of Sigmund Freud and Otto RankThe Mind According to ShakespeareThe Mystery of PersonalityThe Mythological UnconsciousThe Neuropsychology of the UnconsciousThe New PsychoanalysisThe Power of FeelingsThe Psychoanalytic MovementThe Psychoanalytic MysticThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychoanalytic Study of the ChildThe Psychodynamics of Gender and Gender RoleThe Puppet and the DwarfThe Real World Guide to Psychotherapy PracticeThe Revolt of the PrimitiveThe Seminar of Moustafa SafouanThe Sense and Non-Sense of RevoltThe Shortest ShadowThe Social History of the UnconsciousThe Surface EffectThe Symmetry of GodThe Tragedy of the SelfThe Trainings of the PsychoanalystThe UnsayableThe World of PerversionTherapeutic ActionTherapy's DelusionsThis Incredible Need to BelieveThoughts Without A ThinkerTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTrauma and Human ExistenceTraumatizing TheoryUmbr(a)Unconscious knowing and other essays in psycho-philosophical analysisUnderstanding Dissidence and Controversy in the History of PsychoanalysisUnderstanding PsychoanalysisUnfree AssociationsWalking HeadsWay Beyond FreudWhat Does a Woman Want?What Freud Really MeantWhen the Body SpeaksWhere Do We Fall When We Fall in Love?Whose Freud?Why Psychoanalysis?Wilhelm ReichWinnicottWinnicott On the ChildWisdom Won from IllnessWittgenstein on Freud and FrazerWittgenstein Reads FreudWorld, Affectivity, TraumaZizek

Related Topics
The Symmetry of GodReview - The Symmetry of God
by Rodney Bomford
Free Association Books, 1999
Review by Naomi Gold
Feb 11th 2000 (Volume 4, Issue 6)

This book will present significant difficulties for many readers. This is because prospective readers of The Symmetry of God must be proficient in three areas of study: classical psychoanalytic theory, the genre of writing that seeks to find significant points of contact between the beliefs of Christian theology and the tenets of psychoanalysis, and, above all, mathematical logic, especially as it is presented by the psychoanalyst Ignacio Matte-Blanco. One service a reviewer can perform for prospective readers, therefore, is to provide some introductory remarks that will help orient readers to the author’s project.

The consideration of religion from a psychoanalytic perspective has a long history, going back to Freud himself and continuing in the writings of Jung, Fairbairn, Guntrip and Winnicott. It is well-known that a discussion of the contradiction--or perhaps the impossibility--of an alliance between psychoanalytic and theological worldviews is also found in the origins of psychoanalysis. In his correspondence with Oskar Pfister, Freud wrote "That you should be such a convinced analyst and at the same time a clerical gentleman is one of the contradictions that make life so interesting" (Heinrich Meng and Ernst L. Freud, eds. Psychoanalysis and Faith. The Letters of Sigmund Freud & Oskar Pfister, trans. Eric Mosbacher [London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, 1963], 142). In this book, Bomford, another clerical gentleman, (Vicar of St. Giles Church, Camberwell, and Honorary Canon of Southwark Cathedral), adds his voice to this discussion, building on themes he began in the articles "Mapping Mental Processes: A New Approach to Symmetric Logic and the Unconscious "(Journal of Melanie Klein and Object Relations 16 [1998]) and "The Attributes of God and the Characteristics of the Unconscious" (International Review of Psychoanalysis 17 [1990]).

Among both religiously-committed and secular writers, there have been significant developments in psychoanalytic perspectives on religion since Freud’s own writings, and a substantial, varied, and even accommodating body of literature now stands alongside the analytic writing that is critical or, as some have estimated, reductionistic. There is, moreover, a specific body of writing by religiously-committed writers that attempts to draw connections between and reconcile religious belief systems and the tenets of psychoanalytic theory; representative writers in this area are Ana-Maria Rizzuto and the Jesuit priest and psychoanalyst W.W. Meissner. With regard to this last point, it is the opinion of this reviewer that the implicit agenda of most religiously-committed psychoanalytic writers is to utilize psychoanalytic theories of human nature and development to support their own particular theological worldviews and truth claims. This implicit agenda may be seen to be operative in Bomford’s book in the way his discussion progresses from the unconscious and Matte-Blanco’s symmetric logic, to God, Christ, the Incarnation, the Trinity, Eucharist, and Atonement. There is a kind of syllogism operative in this book: the deep structure of the unconscious models symmetric logic, and, in Bomford’s own words, "The doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation...are dominated by symmetric logic and become virtually expressions of its laws" (124), therefore, the human mind itself--indeed all human minds--are infused with core elements of the Christian belief system. The objective of demonstrating the veracity of the Christian faith by arguing for its compatibility with a prior system (usually a philosophical one) has been and is a common modus operandi among Christian philosophers and apologists. And the reader who is able to follow Bomford’s arguments all the way through will realize that he or she is finally being drawn into considering the ultimate truth of fundamental Christian doctrines.

Bomford’s entire argument hinges on the work of psychoanalyst Ignacio Matte-Blanco. Matte-Blanco’s primary book is The Unconscious as Infinite Sets (London: Duckworth, 1975), and the most useful exposition of his work is in Eric Rayner’s Unconscious Logic (London and New York: Routledge, 1995). Matte-Blanco’s career was a diverse one: he was trained and worked in psychiatry and psychoanalysis in Chile, the United States, and Italy. In England during the thirties he studied Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica, and in the forties, he continued his studies in mathematics at Columbia University. He introduced a new paradigm for psychoanalysis, conceptualizing emotion in light of mathematical set theory. Bomford is doing two things in this book: seeking points of contact between psychoanalysis and Christian theology, and, to this end, applying mathematical logic, as presented by Matte-Blanco, to the tenets of Christian faith. Bomford begins by asking a number of questions that have dominated and continue to dominate theology since the period of the enlightenment. He asks: "Does the Christian faith speak of realities or fictions? Is God real or merely a verbal symbol?" (1) Later he asks, "In talking about God are we dealing with factual certainties, or are we merely expressing our own outlook on life?" (7) The book is written, he says, "for those who...look for an understanding of Christian faith which is neither literalist nor reductionist; that is to say, which neither clings rigidly to the literal truth of every word of the Bible, nor on the other hand reduces the faith by rejecting most of what the past has believed to be central" (1). He makes note of the historical fact that Christian theology has "from the beginning the church has borrowed philosophies from the world as handmaids to faith, and has expressed its faith through them...Philosophers from Plato to Heidegger have been used for this purpose, by theologians from the patristic period to modern times."

Finally, and of central importance to his project in this book, he states, "It is psychoanalytic thinking that I propose as a ‘philosophical’ handmaid for Christian theology" (2). But is unlikely that his efforts will be very gratifying to, or even comprehended by, either psychoanalysts or theologians. His heavy reliance on the mythological nature of biblical narratives will not be satisfactory to many or perhaps most theologians, since such an approach is fundamentally incompatible with religious truth claims. Doctrines such as resurrection and transubstantiation are not merely symbolic or mythological for believers, but claims of objective fact, despite their inconsistency with any observable states of affairs. And while the theologically-minded may nevertheless have some appreciation for the task Bomford has set out for himself -- theologians are always glad to have their ideas sanctioned by science and mathematics--the book will be comprehensible only to readers to who thoroughly understand mathematical set theory. But I suspect that even mathematically astute readers will be at a loss to understand Bomford’s proposition that the tenets of Christian doctrine are disclosed in symmetric logic. Thus, most readers, whether mathematicians, psychoanalysts, or theologians, will find themselves stymied by one or more aspects of this perplexing book.
 
 
 

Naomi Gold is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Toronto School of Theology.  Her  dissertation discusses and critiques the way in which psychoanalytic object-relations theory has been used by theologically-committed analytic  writers to validate theological belief systems.  She has degrees in theology and religious studies, and has an active interest in the history and development of of "New Age" religion, religious cults, and the psychology of religious belief.

To discuss this book or the review you have just read, join the Metapsychology Discussion E-Mail Group by going to this URL: http://www.onelist.com/subscribe/metapsy-discussion


Share

Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology. We feature over 7900 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'


Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!


Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716