On the Couch, in the Lab

Paul Marshall

in Mystical Encounters with the Natural World

Published in print July 2005 | ISBN: 9780199279432
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780191603440 | DOI:
On the Couch, in the Lab

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The focus here is naturalistic explanations that put great weight on the functioning or malfunctioning of the brain or mind. R. C. Zaehner turned against nature mysticism and put forward several unflattering explanations. He likened extrovertive experience to the mania of manic-depressive illness, but his most promising explanation calls upon an inner mental model of the world. Freud supposed that the extrovertive ‘oceanic feeling’ is a vestige of infantile ideation, and object-relations theorists have suggested that mystical experience aims to repair the psychological damage inflicted by childhood loss. There is good evidence that the brain plays some role in religious and mystical experiences, but the nature of the role is presently unclear. Neuropsychological theories due to V. S. Ramachandran, James Austin, and Eugene d’Aquili and Andrew Newberg are raised, but they do not deal convincingly with the full range of extrovertive phenomenology and are best regarded as provisional efforts that will be superseded by more sophisticated theories when neuroscientific understanding of brain function is better understood.

Keywords: psychopathology; Zaehner; participation mystique; Jung; Erich Neumann; psychoanalysis; Freud; oceanic feeling; object relations; neuropsychology

Chapter.  11010 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

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