This study examines the history of the psychoanalytic theory of mysticism, starting with the seminal correspondence between Freud and Romain Rolland concerning the concept of "oceanic feeling." Providing a corrective to current views which frame psychoanalysis as pathologizing mysticism, Parsons reveals the existence of three models entertained by Freud and Rolland: the classical reductive, ego-adaptive, and transformational (which allows for a transcendent dimension to mysticism). Then, reconstructing Rolland's personal mysticism (the "oceanic feeling") through texts and letters unavailable to Freud, Parsons argues that Freud misinterpreted the oceanic feeling. In offering a fresh interpretation of Rolland's mysticism, Parsons constructs a new dialogical approach for psychoanalytic theory of mysticism which integrates culture studies, developmental perspectives, and the deep epistemological and transcendent claims of the mystics.
"For anyone practicing or interested in the psychology of mysticism, this is a very important book; indeed, it is a landmark. If Parson's voice is given the hearing that it so richly deserves--and I hope that it will be--this work could signal (if not also helf effect) a genuine renaissance in the psychoanalytic study of mysticism, a renaissance deeply rooted in the history and personalities of psychoanalytic discourse but not unduly restricted to any one of
that tradition's many colorful and insightful historical voices."--The Journal of Religion
"Appropriate for graduate level collections serving religious studies, theology, and psychology students and for psychoanalytic/psychodynamic institutes."--Choice
"Parsons' tour de force enriches both the psychology of mysticism and the understanding of Freud's later view of religion, interpreting them in the context of Western European culture in the twentieth century...."--Religious Studies Review