1st Edition

Psychoanalysis, Mysticism and the Problem of Epistemology Defining the Indefinable

By Alice Bar Nes Copyright 2022
    352 Pages
    by Routledge

    352 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book presents key psychoanalytic theories from a fresh perspective: that of the mystical element.

    The author explores the depth-structure of central assumptions in psychoanalytic theory to uncover the mystical core of conventional analytic thinking. Exploring authors from Freud and Ferenczi, through Bion and Winnicott, to contemporary voices such as Ogden, Bollas and Eigen, the book shows that psychoanalysis has always operated on the assumption of psychic overlap, a "soul-to-soul" contact, between patient and analyst. Surprisingly, the book shows how this "magical" facet goes hand in hand with a pragmatic worldview that explores the epistemological complexities of psychoanalysis in search of a way to join the subjective, even the mystical, with the practical aim of serving as a validated mental health discipline. This is accomplished through an interdisciplinary and intertextual encounter between psychoanalysis and the innovative pairing of William James’ pragmatic philosophy and Martin Buber’s dialogic thought. The author's paradoxical stance surrounding the nature and role of psychoanalysis and its mystical facet resonate the great challenge embedded in Winnicott's insistence on tolerating paradox and Bion's demand to respect all parts of the (psychoanalytic) truth, in this case, the practical and mundane alongside the mystical and magical.

    The book’s broad, interdisciplinary outlook will captivate both psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic therapists as well as scholars of philosophy.

    1.  Defining the Ineffable: What is the Mystical?  2. A Brief History of the Mystical in Psychoanalysis  3. Psychoanalysis, Pragmatism and the Epistemology of Faith  4. Freud and Ferenczi: In the Beginning there was a Split  5. Bion: Doubt and Faith – Dreaming the Ineffable Truth  6. Playing and Unity: The Winnicottian Revolution  7. Ogden: Stepping out of the Shadow – The Shared Psychoanalytic Psyche Speaks  8. Bollas: The Shadow of the Divine Unconscious  9. Eigen: Faith and Turbulence – The Psychoanalytic Mystic


    Alice Bar Nes, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with a private practice; faculty member and a supervisor at the Temurot school of psychotherapy and group supervisor at the continuing medical education psychiatry program at Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

    "Dr. Alice Bar Nes’ book, Psychoanalysis, Mysticism and the Problem of Epistemology: Defining the   Indefinable, is an impressive work that brings the reader into an area of psychoanalytic thinking that has been much-maligned over the years - the question of mysticism. The author offers an integrative perspective that recognizes 'the mystical at the heart of the analytic project.' Dr. Bar Nes’ book is a tour de force that reveals an underlying mystical element in psychoanalysis that is implicit in Freud's early thinking, Ferenczi’s thoughts about mysticism, Winnicott’s transitional space, Bion’s notion of a ‘messianic idea,’ and the work of other well-known analysts. These concepts are impressively woven together and subsequently integrated with the work of philosophers, especially the contributions of William James and Martin Buber. This book is recommended for students and practitioners of psychoanalysis interested in the broader scope of psychoanalytic thinking." - Lawrence J Brown, Ph.D., is the author of Intersubjective Processes and the Unconscious: Freudian, Kleinian and Bionian Perspectives and Transformational Processes in Clinical Psychoanalysis: Dreaming, Emotions and the Present Moment

    "O, what a powerful book! Alice Bar Nes takes the reader on a journey to the unexplainable domains of patient-therapist interactions. Her book sheds new light on the mystical ingredients of psychoanalysis, the possibilities of which clinicians are only just beginning to appreciate. William James, Wilfred Bion, Donald Winnicott, Christopher Bollas, and Michael Eigen, together with thinkers such as Saint-Exupery and Martin Buber, serve as Bar Nes' fellow guides along the magical, and, at times, sacred path of the psychoanalytic therapeutic relationship. Masterfully combining the inexpressible with the practical, the enigmatic with the down-to-earth, Bar Nes invites us to explore new intrapsychic and intersubjective territories; to explore her own faith journey; and to re-discover the area of faith in ourselves." - Amit Fachler, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist and author of Too Much in the Son: Fatherless Fathers' Accounts of Love, Guilt, and Reparation (Hebrew)

    "This book is a work of a true lover of psychoanalytic theories, with exquisite knowledge, depth and wisdom – on faith in the power of the human contact to act as the clinical core.

    The meeting of psychoanalysis and mysticism, through the vibrating presence of Alice Bar-Nes, is structured as 'the meaning of being human', as she puts it; in her person and writing, psychoanalytic foci that touch upon the mystical - transform into emotionally-felt and communicated experiences.

    The book is a serious contribution and guide for those engaged in psychoanalytic treatment on how to navigate in the realm of the spiritual and theoretical via the subjective, the intersubjective and the practical, and enlightenment for those interested in mysticism." - Nitza Yarom, Ph.D., Clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst; the author of Psychic Threats and Somatic Shelters and Matrix of Hysteria

    "Alice Bar Nes’ book is a welcome contribution to understanding and broadening the deep connection between mysticism and psychoanalysis. She penetrates, analyzes and connects philosophical thinking and clinical understanding in a highly original way.

    I was especially impressed by her extraordinary ability to present indefinable concepts in a crystal clear way and to engage the reader in the flow of her text. Her proposed definition of mysticism is elegant, clear and succeeds in shedding new light on the contribution of influential writers in the psychoanalytic field, through that unique prism. Most significantly, she succeeds in making the mystical a concept that resonates with the experiences of every human being." - Ilana Laor, Ph.D., Clinical psychologist and group analyst; head of the Israeli chapter of the IARPP