In this volume we have brought together some of the most important contributions of Antoon Vergote to the field of what is now called 'clinical psychology of religion'. Most of these contributions were not published before in English. They cover the field in two ways. On the one hand we selected some articles in which Vergote reflects about the foundations of the (clinical) psychology of religion. This first part of the book is about the psychoanalytic and philosophical-anthropological approach of some major topics in the study of religion : e.g. mythical thinking and symbolisation, moral law and the idea of sin, religious experience... . In this part we also included a critical reflection about the classic psychoanalytic criticism of religion and about the epistemology and the limits of the psychology of religion. The second part, on the other hand, contains clinical-empirical and psycho-historical studies about concrete religious phenomena. The first section of this part is, amongst other topics, about the psychological approach of the person Jesus, about the psychological profile of the priest and, about some aspects of folk religiosity. The second section deals with problems in the field of mental health and religion : the differentiation of true and false mysticism, religion and psychopathology and a psychological approach of the experience of visions and apparitions.
Contemporary psychology is reviving with new vigor an interest in hermeneutics, or the human science of interpretation. After a period in which positivistic and statistical approaches have been dominant, new methods are being explored. Most of these focus on narrative, cultural analysis, embodiment and interdisciplinarity. Because of its specific object of study, psychology of religion has never been without an hermeneutical emphasis. In this field of psychology scholarship, these new directions are especially welcomed as they offer perspectives for research which attempts to interpret religion as a human phenomenon.
This volume presents hermeneutical psychological studies on religion which rely on both classical and contemporary approaches. Dealing with topics like mysticism, religious symbols, life stories and mental health, contributions to the volume draw on a variety of perspectives. These range from psychoanalysis, narrative psychology and feminism to perspectives drawn deep from the wellspring of interdisciplinary collaboration with anthropology and history.
This book focuses attention on the central elements of human religious existence. Vergote's primary aim and viewpoint are clear: to examine empirically and to interpret dynamically the psychological factors at work in the field of religion. Vergote consistently adheres to the position that psychology is neither philosophy nor theology and that its task is not to explain religion. In this work he situates religion as a cultural fact and studies how persons orient themselves to it, positively and/or negatively. Rather than emphasise and juxtapose belief and unbelief as alternative positions, he sees them as threads of experiences interwoven throughout the human existence of persons and institutions. In this context he studies motivations and their ambivalences, religious experiences and their ambiguities, conflicts between religious belief and unbelief, and the various expressions and practices of religion.