"Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Religion" by James W.              Jones

Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Religion Transference and Transcendence James W. Jones

Publication date:
28 Jul 1993
Yale University Press
160 pages: 279 x 216mm


The psychoanalytic study of religion has until now been dominated by a Freudian perspective that views the religious experience as a one-way transference, where the devotee projects his instinctually based childhood wishes, fears, and behaviors onto a religious construct. In this path-breaking book, James W. Jones, a clinical psychologist and professor of religion, challenges this view. Building on more recent theories in which the self is construed as a matrix of internalized relationships, he investigates ways in which religious beliefs, practices, and experiences reflect the structure of the relational self.


Drawing on both theory and practice, Jones not only reviews the relevant psychoanalytic literature but also illustrates his thesis with an in-depth discussion of four clinical cases. He examines models of transference since Freud by Fairbairn, Kohut, Gill, and Roland, and he describes previous applications of psychoanalysis to religion by Rizzuto, Winnicott, and Kohut. He concludes by discussing the nature of religion, bringing such theologians, philosophers, and psychoanalysts as Otto, Bollas, Tillich, and Buber into a multi-disciplinary dialogue.


The book will give the scholar and student of religious studies the latest psychoanalytic theories and demonstrate their relevance for religious studies. It will also help the clinician grasp the role of religion in human life.

"A major contribution. Jones has a rare and welcome gift for surveying a complex argument and grasping the heart of it. His inclusion of case studies distinguishes his book from other works in the genre."?John McDargh, Boston College

"Object relations theory is on the cutting edge of work in psychoanalysis and religion. Jones presents it lucidly with a minimum of jargon. He relates it to basic religious issues in a fresh and knowledgeable way."?Malcolm Diamond, Professor of Religion, Princeton University


"As beautiful aesthetically as it is profound. [Jones'] writing is beautiful, clear and concise. One need not be expert in psychology or its formidable jargon to love this book. . . . Read and re-read this book."?Bradley Shavit Artson, Conservative Judaism

"This book is at the forefront of the field. It is refreshing to read a work that brings together theology, psychoanalytic thought, and professional practice in a way that does not diminish any one aspect. Its appeal is that it is both highly intuitive and highly theoretical."?Marilyn Saur, International Journal for the Psychology of Religion

"Could become a classic. Lucidly written and elegantly argued, it contributes importantly to psychoanalytic theory of religion and is a teaching book."?Mark Krupnick, Journal of Religion

"Quite illuminating not only in its defense of religion but in the implications of his criticism of subject-object dichotomies for studies of the self."?Lynne Layton, Psychiatry

"An excellent primer on new psychoanalytic approaches to the study of religion. [Jones] shows how the dynamic of transference in the therapeutic relation has important consequences for the study of religion and uses transference as the particular lens through which religion is examined."?Brita L. Gill-Austern, Psychology & Religion

"A fine survey of the contemporary literature on religion and object relations theory and an original contribution to that literature."?Diane Jonte-Pace, Religious Studies Review

"[A] useful overview of the present state of the psychoanalytic understanding of religious experience."?W. W. Meissner, S. J., M.D., Theological Studies

Winner of an American Psychological Association 1993 award for distinguished contributions to psychology and religion