Using John Wesley’s sermons
and treatises, and the autobiographical narratives of his followers,
Watching and Praying gives a detailed examination of the contemplative techniques that comprised Wesley’s “method” and model of personality transformation. The first of its kind, the book employs a psychoanalytic perspective that explains both the effectiveness of the method and the emotional crises that arose at every turn. Haartman argues that Wesley’s view of spiritual growth – a series of developmental stages that culminated in “sanctification” – was legitimately therapeutic as measured by the standards of contemporary psychoanalysis. Wesley’s pastoral genius lay not only in his implicit grasp of the unconscious (e.g. repression, defense, sublimation), but also in his abiding appreciation of healthy ideals and their integrative power.
Watching and Praying will appeal to psychoanalysts interested in the clinical facets of religious experience, to scholars in the field of psychology and religion, and to researchers in the area of personality change.
This paper examines the contemplative techniques that comprised wesley's method of spiritual transformation. By employing a psychoanalytic perspective that explains the pastoral effectiveness of the method, I claim that Wesley's view of spiritual growth was therapeutic and transformative as measured by contemporary clinical standards. Wesley's developmental model involved a series of spiritual phases each characterized by techniques and meditations (ritual mourning, the practice of the presence, introspection) that culminated in sanctification, a cognitive-emotional transformation marked by the eradication of sinful temptations and the perfection of altruism. Couched in a theological idiom, the method helped individuals to work through conflicts created by the three main traumata of British middle class childhood: authoritarian parenting and unresolved bereavement grief. This paper argues that religious-cultural symbolism may promote transformations of archaic affect and neurotic conflict that progressively reshape these pre-reflective materials into complex existential insights and convictions.
Haartman responds to points made by Malony and Carroll. Malony suggests that Methodist repentance was characterized by "devotion" and "joyous possession" rather than fear. Haartman argues that the hysterical crises and the persecutory ideation that accompanied Methodist conversion was often triggered by Wesley's invitation to accept God's love. The data points to a conflict model involving rage and anxiety, as well as devotion. Haartman concedes to Carroll's argument that the majority of Methodists hailed from the lower working class and that the psychology of evangelical nurture does not apply to this constituency. However, the authors of the official autobiographies were drawn from the middling ranks and revealed struggles with authoritarian parenting. Haartman challenges Carroll's emphasis on orality and regression as the primary psychoanalytic explanation for Methodist spirituality.