Freud, the Unconscious and the 'Irreligious' Psychoanalysis of Religion

Legacies of the Occult - Psychoanalysis, Religion, and Unconscious Communication - Marsha Aileen Hewitt

Marsha Aileen Hewitt [+-]
University of Toronto
Marsha Aileen Hewitt is Professor of Social Ethics and Religion in the Faculty of Divinity at Trinity College, and teaches in the Department of Theology in the Toronto School of Theology. She also teaches in the Trinity College Arts programme, Ethics, Society and the Law. Professor Hewitt’s books include From Theology to Social Theory: Juan Luis Segundo and the Theology of Liberation (1990), Critical Theory of Religion: A Feminist Analysis (1995) and Freud on Religion (2014).


This chapter introduces key concepts such as the unconscious and the psychobiological dimensions of Freud’s concept of archaic inheritance, situating them in relation to more contemporary evolutionary theories. The inadequacy of literalist readings of Freud both distort and obscure the deeper symbolic meanings of theories such as his use of the Oedipus narrative and the primal horde. A detailed discussion of Freud and Jung on the nature of the unconscious and its relationship with other mental agencies identifies the decisive differences between Freud’s thoroughly irreligious naturalistic treatment of the unconscious and Jung’s far more spiritual approach. Jung’s religious psychology and that of William James, who was an important influence on his thinking, are two of the intellectual ancestors of mystical trends in contemporary American psychoanalysis.

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Hewitt, Marsha Aileen. Freud, the Unconscious and the 'Irreligious' Psychoanalysis of Religion. Legacies of the Occult - Psychoanalysis, Religion, and Unconscious Communication. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Jul 2020. ISBN 9781781792797. Date accessed: 27 Jan 2020 doi: 10.1558/equinox.27414. Jul 2020

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