The idea of psychoanalysis conceived as a spiritual discipline, particularly one that is lodged in the dialogical personalism of Buber and Marcel, may seem like a version that is so top-heavy with “god-talk” and religious/spiritual categories and language that it is beyond the way mainstream psychoanalysis (including its postmodern tendencies) views itself, let alone operates in the clinical context (i.e., accusing me of bringing God, or even worse, moralism, in through the back door). However, as Orange noted, “Dialogic philosophy [e.g., she highlights Buber, though not Marcel] is a better resource than ‘postmodernism’ for our clinical practice” (2010, p. 12). Moreover, as Oppenheim noted, in contemporary psychoanalysis, such as in the works of “Mitchell, Benjamin, and Hoffman, there are moments of breakthrough, but also a persistent underlying, literalist suspicion concerning religious concepts and values” (2017, p. 153). As 1 pointed out in my introductory chapter, while there has been some appropriation of Eastern religion/spirituality (Vaidyanathan & Kripal, 2002, Hinduism) into psychoanalysis, mainly Buddhist ideas (Molino, 2013), the fact is not much has been done by analysts, qua believers (of some hybrid variety) who are lodged in Judeo-Christian outlook and morality It is up to the reader to decide whether the aforementioned resonates with their personal experience. For the believer, I am sure a lot of it does, but there is no security or guarantee, as Buber and Marcel repeatedly stated. This lack of security and guarantee, even plausibility, is that much truer for those non-believers who don’t feel addressed by Buber and Marcel, who don’t have the analogous faith experiences they describe, and who point to a lack of objective (or quasi-objective) criteria or methods for understanding the relation to the eternal/Absolute Thou. I urge such readers, which is by far most analysts and other mental health professional, to approach this book (and other such books) without preconceived opinions and judgments (Buber, 1964, p. 96). Marcelian availability—ready, reactive, responsive, and responsible—is the only port of entry into the mystery of being, including of the eternal and infinite Being.
This being said, my position is not as anachronistic as one might think. For example, as early as 1953, Hans Loewald, a Freudian with revisionist tendencies, opined that the “mature individual” is “able to reach back into his deep origins and roots of being [his ‘soul’ as Buber/Marcel might say] finding] in himself the oneness from where he stems [the ultimate ‘ground’ of his being] and understanding] this in his freedom as his bond of love with God,” with the noncorporeal “whole” cosmic consciousness, ethicality. Loewald’s “god-talk” is his way of describing the cosmic vision and oceanic sentiment, its associated ethical outlook, and the analytical goal of helping analysands become “spiritual beings,” as he called them, to achieve the “highest form of awareness ... the freedom for faith and love” (1953, pp. 13,14,15). Loewald never backed off this point of view, as far as I know.
The late Lewis Aron, one of the major proponents of contemporary relational psychoanalysis, who appreciated Buber’s (and other Jewish thinkers’) philosophy of dialogue, wrote in 2004, “Indeed, psychoanalysis may be envisioned as a form of worship, in which contact is made with the Almighty through immersion in the richness and depth of the inner life and in communion with the Other” (2004, p. 450). Moreover, sounding like Buber and Marcel, Aron noted that “being deeply engaged with God, imitating God’s ways, may paradoxically help keep us [analysts] from playing God” (ibid.). He approvingly referenced Michael Eigen’s book on Judaism and psychoanalysis (1998) that “described psychoanalysis as a form of prayer” (ibid.) which aims to expand and deepen the person’s sense of discovered/created identity.
Hoffman (2011), herself a believer who is lodged in non-fundamentalist, conservative, and evangelical Christian theology; provides a theoretical and clinical perspective on relational psychoanalysis and the Christian narrative. Her claim is that intersubjectivity as understood in Christian theology and intersubjectivity in relational psychoanalysis (i.e., Jessica Benjamin’s theory of mutual recognition) are correlated in important ways, though also different.
She twins three phases of psychoanalytic treatment—identification, surrender, and gratitude—with the Christian notions of incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Hoffman is clearly inspired by her faith in a transcendent God that is in play in the clinical context; for example, she declares: “A loving force for life, Hegel’s Geist [Spirit], God’s grace, is operative in the evolution of culture and the transformation of individual lives in the consultation room” (p. 219). She also refers to the divinely inspired “gift[s]” of faith, love, and hope (pp. 166— 167), and plausibly shows via a detailed clinical study that there is a creative way of not only correlating, but integrating some spiritual and psychoanalytic dynamics within the clinical context.
Eigen (2012, 2014), another hybrid believer, strongly influenced by Bion in his psychoanalytic outlook, also draws from the Judeo-Christian outlook and morality (and Eastern as well as other sources) in his understanding of the role of religion/spirituality in clinical psychoanalysis. One of the key notions animating Eigen’s book on mysticism (1998) is the experiencing of God, not inevitably as a Being external to the self or a personal God (though it could be), but mainly in our personal and group lives, in the delights and anguish of the life and death of the self. Calling to mind Marcel’s homo viator, psychoanalysis is conceived as“a psychospiritual journey” (ibid., p. 160). For example, he noted,
I feel that what you call that other dimension [the spiritual/divine] is here, always here. Whatever you call God or spiritual reality is right here, in our lives. We are creating it and it is creating us through the way we are with each other, how we make each other feel. Do our interactions make a more kindly world or a less kindly world? It reminds me of what Judaism says— that my words are creating angels and devils.”
(Eigen, 2014, pp. 98—99)32
His book Faith is replete with such terms as “holy,” “sacred,” “I believe in miracles,” and “goodness,” all words that resonate with Buber and Marcel’s dialogical personalism (ibid., 99,100).33 Finally, Eigen powerfully affirms an existential attitude that has animated my study:
There is no reason to place artificial limits on where or how far therapy should go. Throughout my career I have heard that therapy is not a religion, and must stop short of the religious dimension. Perhaps this is true for many practitioners but it has never been so for me. Therapy is a holy business for me and was so from my first session, as patient and as therapist.
(1998, pp. 41-42)
I can cite other psychoanalytically lodged authors who affirm aspects of the aforementioned Judeo-Christian faith/God/religion/spirituality nexus, but I think the point has been made that it is time for mainstream psychoanalysis to seriously engage with the dialogical personalist philosophies of Buber and
Marcel, and other likeminded religious/spiritual thinkers. For their insights can profoundly enhance our discipline and directly “speak” to our current (and potential) analysands, patients, and clients who are trying to make their suffering sufferable, including from interhuman/intersubjective “hunger,” if not “starvation,” neglect, and abuse, as Buber and Marcel have detailed it. Moreover, our critics who view psychoanalysis as a “has been” discipline may come to realize in following Mark Twain’s famous attributed quip, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”