Documenting Shifts in How People Perceived God

Article excerpt

Freud's Paranoid Quest: Psychoanalysis and Modern Suspicion

By John Farrell

NYU Press 275 pp., $34.95 The modern age began for Western civilization when Europeans shifted their theological view of God, trading a "kindly Architect" for a "mighty King." The God of medieval Europe was the kindly Architect who reveals Himself in His plan for mortals and for the world they inhabit. The Renaissance replaced this Mediterranean concept of God with the mighty King of the Hebrew scriptures. Most of John Farrell's new book, "Freud's Paranoid Quest," is devoted to documenting such observations. With the shift, human knowledge about God derived not from a preexisting, plan, but from the motives and actions of a King. The King reveals Himself only after the fact in His actions. Just as Isaac Newton showed us the modern way by reducing the regular action of the moons and planets to a mathematical system, modern man reinterpreted God based on empirically observed nature. At first, it was just assumed that these patterns would carry their own meaning and reveal the divine nature behind them. By the time Sigmund Freud developed his psychoanalytic theory, it was clear that meaning is something humans add to the patterns of nature. Medieval presuppositions were anchored inmedieval interpretations of man and the universe. But modern orientations annihilated these medieval certainties and put nothing in their place. …