Tag Archives: religion

“Very much in love”: The letters of Magda Arnold and Father John Gasson

For your weekend reading pleasure, we bring to your attention the now available article ““Very much in love”: The letters of Magda Arnold and Father John Gasson” from the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Written by Elissa N. Rodkey, the article explores the role of religious belief as a source of resilience in the academic career of Magda Arnold. The abstract reads,

Magda Arnold (1903–2002), best known for her pioneering appraisal theory of emotion, belonged to the second generation of women in psychology who frequently experienced institutional sexism and career barriers. Following her religious conversion, Arnold had to contend with the additional challenge of being an openly Catholic woman in psychology at a time when Catholic academics were stigmatized. This paper announces the discovery of and relies upon a number of previously unknown primary sources on Magda Arnold, including approximately 150 letters exchanged by Arnold and Father John Gasson. This correspondence illuminates both the development of Arnold’s thought and her navigation of the career challenges posed by her conversion. I argue that Gasson’s emotional and intellectual support be considered as resources that helped Arnold succeed despite the discrimination she experienced. Given the romantic content of the correspondence, I also consider Arnold and Gasson in the context of other academic couples in psychology in this period and argue that religious belief ought to be further explored as a potential contributor to the resilience of women in psychology’s history.

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New History of Psychiatry: Religious Mania, Criminal Insanity, & More

The June 2017 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Articles in this issue explore the relationship between religion and madness, criminal insanity, paralysis of the insanity, female sexuality and syphilis, and more. Full details below.

“From a religious view of madness to religious mania: The Encyclopédie, Pinel, Esquirol,” by Philippe Huneman. Abstract:

This paper focuses on the shift from a concept of insanity understood in terms of religion to another (as entertained by early psychiatry, especially in France) according to which it is believed that forms of madness tinged by religion are difficult to cure. The traditional religious view of madness, as exemplified by Pascal (inter alia), is first illustrated by entries from the Encyclopédie. Then the shift towards a medical view of madness, inspired by Vitalistic physiology, is mapped by entries taken from the same publication. Firmed up by Pinel, this shift caused the abandonment of the religious view. Esquirol considered religious mania to be a vestige from the past, but he also believed that mental conditions carrying a religious component were difficult to cure.

“‘Shrouded in a dark fog’: Comparison of the diagnosis of pellagra in Venice and general paralysis of the insane in the United Kingdom, 1840–1900,” by Egidio Priani. Abstract: Continue reading New History of Psychiatry: Religious Mania, Criminal Insanity, & More

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New HoP: The Careers of Mowrer, Odum, & Puel, Digital History, & More

The February 2017 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Articles in this issue explore the work of O. Hobart Mowrer, Howard W. Odum, and Timothée Puel, respectively, Karl Menninger’s The Crime of Punishment, and  the changing relationship between psychology and philosophy through a digital analysis of journal content. In the news and notes section Chetan Sinha discusses the indigenization of psychology in India. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Preserving guilt in the “age of psychology”: The curious career of O. Hobart Mowrer,” by Corbin Page. The abstract reads,

O. Hobart Mowrer had one of the most productive and curious careers of any psychologist in the 20th century, despite struggling with severe mental illness and anxiety about his sexuality. Early in his career, he was one of the country’s leading experimental psychologists. During the mid-1940s, he became interested in religion and argued that anxiety was caused by repressed guilt that came from real wrongdoing. By the late 1950s, he had abandoned mainstream psychology, arguing that religion had been corrupted by its embrace of psychology and psychiatry. He claimed that sin was responsible for nearly all psychological problems and that ethical living and confession of wrongdoing could prevent mental illness. During his religious period, Mowrer received an astonishing amount of fawning press attention and was embraced by a public desirous of a path to mental health that did not require jettisoning traditional conceptions of sin, guilt, and human nature. This article examines Mowrer’s life and career and situates him among other mid-century skeptics of psychology and psychiatry. Other historians have argued that by the 1950s, the conflict between religion and psychiatry/psychology in the United States had largely abated, with both sides adapting to each other. Mowrer’s life and the reception of his work demonstrate that this narrative is overly simplistic; widespread conservative and religious distrust of psychology persisted even into the 1960s.

“Psychological keys in the study of African American religious folk songs in the early work of Howard W. Odum (1884–1954),” by Marcos José Bernal-Marcos, Jorge Castro-Tejerina, and José Carlos Loredo-Narciandi. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HoP: The Careers of Mowrer, Odum, & Puel, Digital History, & More

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UCL/BPS Talks Feb 29 & Mar 7: Science of Religion & Freud’s Analysis of Haizmann

Johann Christoph Haizmann’s votive painting

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next two talks in their 2016 seminar series. Full details follow below.

Monday 29 February 2016
Matei Iagher (UCL), “Psychology and the quest for a science of religion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries”

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, a new intellectual discipline emerged in academic departments in the United States and Western Europe: the psychology of religion. Championed by figures like William James, Théodore Flournoy, Pierre Janet, and later C.G. Jung, the psychology of religion claimed to offer a novel science of religion, based on an equally new revalorization of individual religious experience. The psychology of religion drew on the affective definition of religion propounded by Friedrich Schleiermacher in the earlier part of the nineteenth century and placed itself in continuity (and sometimes in opposition) with projects to found a science of religion, which were drawn up by scholars like Max Müller or C. P. Tiele in the Victorian period. This paper will offer a brief overview of some of the key points of the psychology of religion, as it was practiced in the United States, France and Switzerland, and will place the movement within the context of wider debates about the nature and function of the science(s) of religion(s) at the turn of the century.

Monday 7 March 2016
Dr David Lederer (Maynooth University, Ireland/Queen Mary University of London), “‘A demonological neurosis’? Psychiatry, psychoanalysis and demonic possession in Freud’s analysis of Haizmann” Continue reading UCL/BPS Talks Feb 29 & Mar 7: Science of Religion & Freud’s Analysis of Haizmann

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New JHBS: Psychiatry & Religion, Magnétisme, & More

The Fall 2015 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioural Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue explore psychiatry and religion in the mid-twentieth century, continuities from magnétisme in late-nineteenth century discourse on hypnotism, and more. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“THE POLITICS OF PSYCHIATRY AND THE VICISSITUDES OF FAITH CIRCA 1950: KARL STERN’S PSYCHIATRIC NOVEL,” by Daniel Burston. The abstract reads,

Karl Stern, MD (1906–1975) was the author of The Pillar of Fire (1951) and three nonfiction books on psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and religion. His novel, Through Dooms of Love (1960), written with the assistance of his friend and admirer Graham Greene, covers a number of topics that were to psychiatric theory, treatment, and research at mid-century, and reflects several features of his own personal and professional vicissitudes.

“IMPERCEPTIBLE SIGNS: REMNANTS OF MAGNÉTISME IN SCIENTIFIC DISCOURSES ON HYPNOTISM IN LATE NINETEENTH-CENTURY FRANCE,” by KIM M. HAJEK. The abstract reads,

In 1880s France, hypnotism enjoyed unique medico-scientific legitimacy. This was in striking contrast to preceding decades when its precursor, magnétisme animal, was rejected by the medical/academic establishment as a disreputable, supernaturally tinged practice. Did the legitimation of hypnotism result from researchers repudiating any reference to the wondrous? Or did strands of magnetic thinking persist? This article interrogates the relations among hypnotism, magnétisme, and the domain of the wondrous through close analysis of scientific texts on hypnotism. In question is the notion that somnambulist subjects possessed hyperacute senses, enabling them to perceive usually imperceptible signs, and thus inadvertently to denature researchers’ experiments (a phenomenon known as unconscious suggestion). The article explores researchers’ uncritical and unanimous acceptance of these ideas, arguing that they originate in a holdover from magnétisme. This complicates our understanding of the continuities and discontinuities between science and a precursor “pseudo-science,” and, more narrowly, of the notorious Salpêtrière-Nancy “battle” over hypnotism.

“KNOWLEDGE ECOLOGIES, “SUPPLE” OBJECTS, AND DIFFERENT PRIORITIES ACROSS WOMEN’S AND GENDER STUDIES PROGRAMS AND DEPARTMENTS IN THE UNITED STATES, 1970–2010,” by Christine Virginia Wood. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Psychiatry & Religion, Magnétisme, & More

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April 20th Talk! Religion & Anti-psychiatry in Imperial Germany

The British Psychological Society’History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk as part of its spring term BPS History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series. On April 20th Eric Engstrom (left) will be speaking on “Pastoral Psychiatry and Irrenseelsorge: Religious Aspects of the Anti-psychiatry Debates in Imperial Germany.” Full details follow below.

The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines

Location: UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, London WC1E 7JG

Time: 6pm-7.30pm

Monday 20 April 2015
Dr Eric Engstrom (Humboldt University of Berlin), “Pastoral Psychiatry and Irrenseelsorge: Religious Aspects of the Anti-psychiatry Debates in Imperial Germany.” The abstract reads,

Historians of psychiatry have often enough interpreted the relationship between psychiatry and religion within narrative frameworks that focus on diagnoses and treatments (religious madness, exorcism) or that emphasise broader historical processes such as secularisation, medicalisation, and biologisation. While there is considerable merit to such frameworks, recent critiques of the secularisation paradigm have suggested a larger place for religion and spirituality in late 19th-century urban culture than is often assumed. The work of the American historian Edward R. Dickinson in particular has reminded us of the enduring influence and inertia of conservative Christian organisations in shaping moral discourse and social policy in the Kaiserreich.

My paper examines more closely the interdisciplinary topography between psychiatric and religious professionals, mapping out some of the common terrain on which they cooperated and/or disagreed with one another. In particular, I will examine debates about the place of religion in 19th-century asylum culture and the role of the so-called ‘Irrenseelsorger’. Against this backdrop and drawing especially on examples from Berlin, I will then explore efforts by religious organisations to expand their role in psychiatric after-/extramural care and show how those efforts contributed decisively to a nascent ‘anti-psychiatry’ movement in the years leading up to World War One.

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New JHBS: Intelligence Testing in India, Racism in South Africa, & More

The autumn 2014 issue of Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now online. Articles in this issue discuss the race and professional organizations in South Africa, intelligence testing in British India, and discussion over psychical, occult, and religious research at early twentieth century international congresses. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The Rhetoric of Racism: Revisiting the Creation of the Psychological Institute of the Republic of South Africa (1956–1962),” by Wahbie Long. The abstract reads,

This paper revisits the 1962 splitting of the South African Psychological Association (SAPA), when disaffected Afrikaner psychologists broke away to form the whites-only Psychological Institute of the Republic of South Africa (PIRSA). It presents an analysis of the rhetorical justification for forming a new professional association on principles at odds with prevailing international norms, demonstrating how the episode involved more than the question of admitting black psychologists to the association. In particular, the paper argues that the SAPA-PIRSA separation resulted from an Afrikaner nationalist reading of the goals of psychological science. PIRSA, that is, insisted on promoting a discipline committed to the ethnic-national vision of the apartheid state. For its part, SAPA’s racial integration was of a nominal order only, ostensibly to protect itself from international sanction. The paper concludes that, in a racist society, it is difficult to produce anything other than a racist psychology.

“Searching for South Asian Intelligence: Psychometry in British India, 1919–1940,” by Shivrang Setlur. The abstract reads, Continue reading New JHBS: Intelligence Testing in India, Racism in South Africa, & More

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July Talk! BPS History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series

The British Psychological Society’History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced another talk as part of the BPS History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series. On July 21st Vincent Barras, of the University of Lausanne, will be speaking on “Plays between Reason, Language and Gods: The Case of Glossolalia 19th-20th Centuries.” Full details follow below.

The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines

Location: UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, London WC1E 7JG
Time: 6pm-7.30pm

Monday 21 July
Professor Vincent Barras (University of Lausanne)
“Plays between Reason, Language and Gods: The Case of Glossolalia 19th-20th Centuries”

Glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, plays a surprisingly important role in discussions between theologians, psychologists and psychiatrists at the turn of the 20th century on the relationships between religious psychology, mental automatisms, subliminal
processes and inner language, and in the formation of modern psychology itself. Its role in the formation of modern psychology will be reconstructed, with particular emphasis on the debates around the Swiss theologian Emile Lombard’s masterpiece of 1910, “Concerning glossolalia in the early Christians and similar phenomena.”

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New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

The April 2013 issue of the journal History of the Human Sciences is now online. Included in these issue are seven all new articles on topics that include the history of psychiatric ideas about self-harm, madness and the brain, and early British and American sociology. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Religion, polygenism and the early science of human origins,” by Terence D. Keel. The abstract reads,

American polygenism was a provocative scientific movement whose controversial claim that humankind did not share a common ancestor caused a firestorm among naturalists and the lay public beginning in the 1830s. This article gives specific attention to the largely overlooked religious ideas marshaled by American polygenists in their effort to construct race as a unit of analysis. I focus specifically on the thought of the American polygenist and renowned surgeon Dr Josiah Clark Nott (1804–73) of Mobile, Alabama. Scholars have claimed that in his effort to establish a properly modern scientific view of race Nott was one of the first American naturalists to publicly denounce the notion of common human descent (monogenesis) as proclaimed in the Bible. I argue that despite his rejection of monogenesis, Nott’s racial theory remained squarely within the tradition of Christian ideas about the natural world. American polygenism provides an example of how scientific and religious ideas worked together in the minds of American antebellum thinkers in the development of novel theories about race and human origins.

“Badness, madness and the brain – the late 19th-century controversy on immoral persons and their malfunctioning brains,” by Felix Schirmann. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

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History of International Psychology and Religion

The August issue of History of Psychology has just been released online. The focus of this issue is the history of psychology and religion. Notably, much of the history of psychology and religion featured in this issue involves histories outside of the North American context. Among the non-American, national psychologies discussed in  this issue are those of Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The articles featured in this issue include:

“Historical intersections of psychology, religion, and politics in national contexts” by Robert Kugelmann and Jacob A. Belzen. The abstract reads:

Various types of psychology have come into existence in and have been interacting with a plurality of contexts, contexts that have been radically varying in different states or nations. One important factor in the development of psychology has been the multiple relationships to the Christian religion, whether understood as an institution, a worldview, or a form of personal spirituality. The articles in this issue focus on the intertwinements between institutional religion and national political structures and on their influence on developing forms of psychology in four different national contexts: Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Within these four settings, aspects of the ways in which varying forms of Christian religion coconstituted, facilitated, and shaped psychology, theoretically, practically, and institutionally, are examined. The formative power of the religions was not independent of the relationships between religion and political power, but rather mediated by these. Continue reading History of International Psychology and Religion

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