Revival: The Return of the Primitive (2001): A New Sociological Theory of Religion, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Revival: The Return of the Primitive (2001)

A New Sociological Theory of Religion, 1st Edition

By Richard K. Fenn


140 pages

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Paperback: 9781138733435
pub: 2019-01-25
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This title was first published in 2001. This work presents a sociological theory of religion. Richard K. Fenn demonstrates that the shape of the sacred depends on what aspects of the psyche and of the environment seem to be beyond the pale of the human and the social, that is, the primitive. Whatever is anti-social or subhuman, and whatever subverts the reign of convention, or whatever defies notions of reason, represents the primitive. Indeed, the primitive represents the range of possibilities that excluded us from any society or social system. That is why hell is so often populated by those who are partly bestial, or crooked and corrupting. If there is to be a renewal of Christian thinking and aspiration in our time, it has to come from a rediscovery of the dream: not only in the metaphorical sense of a vision, perhaps of racial equality, but in the quite literal sense of the individual's own reservoir of suppressed and unconscious memories and yearnings, magical thinking and wounded or grandiose self-imagery.


’This book is about what it means to call one's soul one's own. It is no mere repetition of other positions but an incisive analysis of human self-understanding and self-deception from a deeply humane and scholarly perspective. With its interdisciplinary commitment, this book will intrigue numerous scholars of religion from Patristic theologians to anthropologists.’ Douglas Davies, University of Durham, UK ’In his latest book, Richard Fenn explores the unity of social and psychic life through the 'excluded possibilities' that shadow identity. While the task of religion today must be to regain the 'language of the soul', Fenn goes further - he is a guide to secular descent, death and desire - still the crucible of the human. Once again, Fenn is erudite, provocative, personal.’ Catherine Bell, Santa Clara University, USA 'Fenn's dialogue partners, especially Freud and Dante, exemplify diverse strategies of redeeming the primitive. Others will be able to make further theoretical applications to contemporary movements like Pentecostalism. As usual, Fenn's work is extremely suggestive,… unique interdisciplinary approach.' Religious Studies Review 'Richard Fenn's attempt to establish a cross-disciplinary dialogue between religion and psychology is to be welcomed… there is much valuable material in this volume and it displays evidence of formidable learning…' Themelios 'In The Return of the Primitive, Richard K. Fenn, Professor of Sociology at Princeton Theological Seminary, effects a marvellous healing in the embattled myth-history of ideas by achieving the seemingly impossible reconciliation of the sociological, psychoanalytical and religious imaginations… to succeed in harmonizing all three is as close to the discovery of the holy grail of unified field theory as the humanities and social sciences are likely to attain.' Theology 'Fenn reflects on the meaning and purpose of religious language and how this language must recover sources of the C

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; The social construction of the primitive; The primitive unconscious: the dream as a source of sedition; Searching for the collective unconscious: the return of the primitive crime; Recovering the primitive: Dante’s descent into hell; Experiencing the primitive; Overcoming the primitive self: perennial spiritual journeys; The descent into the unconscious as unauthorized self-possession: the recovery of the lost and dying self; Preventing the death of the soul: Freud’s descent into the realm of the unconscious; The secular pilgrim’s progress through hell.

About the Author

Richard K. Fenn is Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, USA. His book The Return of the Primitive: A New Sociological Theory of Religion was published by Ashgate in 2001.

About the Series

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / General