Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship

Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship

Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship

Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-Worship

Synopsis

A trenchant analysis of modern psychology -- an enterprise that Paul Vitz maintains has become a religion, a secular cult of self, now part of the problem of modern life rather than part of its resolution. Virtually rewritten, this second edition of the original 1977 text takes into account much of what has happened in the field of psychology during the past seventeen years. Two completely new chapters are also included -- one on education and "values clarification" and the other on New Age religion.

Excerpt

I shall begin by documenting the strong religious nature of much of today's psychology. This chapter presents, in brief form, the relevant theoretical positions of Carl Jung — the originator of much self-psychology — and then the positions of more recent self-theorists: Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, and Rollo May (May being important primarily as a representative of existential psychology). The popularization of these and other self-theorists will be described briefly and critiqued in the next chapter. More detailed criticisms of the common assumptions of the self-theory position will be taken up in later chapters.

Jung, Fromm, Rogers, Maslow, and May have been selected as the most influential self-theorists. Other psychologists have contributed to self-theory, but in general they have not been as completely committed to the concept of the self. The psychoanalytic ego-psychologists, for example, with their notions of the conflict-free ego sphere and ego mechanisms of defense, which were developed in the 1930s and 1940s by Heinz Hartmann and Anna Freud and others, are not pure selfpsychologists, since they remained committed to much of traditional Freudian theory. Emphasis on the self is present but is not very strong in the works of famous earlier deviants from orthodox Freudianism such as Rank, Adler, and Horney. Nevertheless, to the extent that these theorists whom we have omitted do emphasize the self (for example, Adler with his notion of the creative self, and Horney with her concern

See Heinz Hartmann, [Psychoanalysis and the Concept of Health,] International
Journal of Psychoanalysis
20 (1939): 308–21; Anna Freud, 'the Ego and the Mechanisms of
Defense
(London: Hogarth, 1942); Ernst Kris, [Ego Psychology and Interpretation in
Psychoanalytic Therapy,] Psychoanalytic Quarterly 20 (1951).

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