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Psychology and the Soul

, 176 pages
July 2002



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Psychology and the Soul

A Study of the Origin, Conceptual Evolution, and Nature of the Soul

In his last years, Otto Rank turned his lifetime of thought and learning toward two of the most difficult topics in human history: religion and the soul. The result was this now-classic work, available in this new, very accessible English translation. Unlike many other intellectuals of the twentieth century, Rank maintains a place for the soul rather than dismissing it as a fantasy. The soul and the beliefs about it, he argues, set forth the foundation for psychology, with its complex analyses of consciousness, self-consciousness, and personality. Rank's commentary is not limited to beliefs about individual souls but includes ideas about group souls, sometimes encompassing nations or generations. Rank suggests that it is in expression of group beliefs that the idea of the soul attains its greatest power.

Otto Rank (1884-1939) was one of the most important students of Freud, especially famous for winning Freud's admiration, then for striking out independently. Among his most enduring works are Art and Artist: Creative Urge and Personality Development; Beyond Psychology; The Double; The Myth of the Birth of the Hero; The Trauma of Birth; and The Incest Theme in Literature and Legend, the last is also available from Johns Hopkins. Gregory C. Richter is an associate professor of foreign language at Truman State University. E. James Lieberman is a clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the George Washington University School of Medicine.

"Recommended, both as a fascinating and little-known document in the history of psychology and as a provocative reading of the history of psychology."

"Will interest many students of the history of psychoanalysis... Rank's conclusions contribute to present-day controversies about the status of psychoanalysis as a science."

"The first complete English translation of a work that Rank published in 1930. It draws on anthropology, sociology, mythology, religion, philosophy, history, and literature to chart the development of the human psyche... The book's antimaterialistic passion makes it a compelling counterpoint to the stern biology of our own age, and the bounds it sets to what psychoanalysis can claim are justly drawn."

"Unquestionably Rank's most important work... This new translation is an effort to create a Rank for our millennium... [and it] reads elegantly and comfortably in English... The argument is complex and intricate, consisting of a long historical/ethnographic sweep that takes us from a 'primitive' state, via animism through the Christian or sexual era to the scientific era and modern development of psychology... Along the way we find traces of many of Rank's other brilliant psychological surveys—the double, Don Juan, heroes' birth myths, the theme of incest—woven into this massive canvas and viewed on the largest scale... Throughout this book, the grand tapestry is set with some remarkable gems of observation."

"This is the first complete translation of Otto Rank's fascinating text on the nature and history of the concept of the Soul and Will in the psychological history of humankind... a tour de force in vigour, scope and application to many contemporary issues such as sexual behaviors, the nature of dreaming, incest prohibitions and narcissism, to name but a few."

"An accessible primary source on the history of psychoanalysis. In places it is gripping, sparing nothing, bringing readers rights into the sideshows that can go unseen behind the main event."

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