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Document Details :

Title: Theologie en psychoanalyse in het oeuvre van Antoon Vergote
Author(s): OLEMANS, Dirk
Journal: Bijdragen
Volume: 73    Issue: 1   Date: 2012   
Pages: 55-84
DOI: 10.2143/BIJ.73.1.2160751

Abstract :
Apart from being a famous psychologist of religion, Antoine Vergote (1921) published in other domains as well such as theology, philosophical anthropology and psychoanalysis. One can even say that the dialectic interplay between these different domains constitutes the specificity of his work. Olemans examines how psychoanalytical concepts operate within Vergote’s Theology. His main work of Theology appeared in 1997, treating the first Commandment, the injunction to love God as an answer to God who addresses man in revealing Himself as a person. How should man be thought of, in other words what kind of Philosophical Anthropology is needed, to theoretically assure ground for this Love towards God? This question can be considered as one of the Leitmotivs of Vergote’s extensive work, published over more than half a century, which I revisit in search of some answers. They refer to Psychoanalysis, since Vergote rejects the natural adjustment of man’s will to God. God’s personal address calls upon human desire which has to be thought of as Eros in the sense of Plato and Freud, but amended, as in Plato’s case Plato, with the concept of person, while as in Freud’s case, with Lacan’s idea of desire. Plato’s Eros indeed tends finally to the anonymous-divine, not to the person-person relation characteristic of mystical love. For Freud on the other hand, the erotic quest of man is but directing at substitutes (Ersätze) of earlier experiences of pleasure. Lacan’s language theory and his concept of the symbolic order enables Vergote to state that Eros can focus on new aims. The question that becomes imperative then is how this human Eros can be transformed into Love towards God (religious Eros). First and foremost, what exactly is the process that transforms Eros from its initial phase as primary pulsion, directing it to ‘higher values’? In psychoanalytical terms, this poses the problem of sublimation, main issue of Vergote’s central work on Psychoanalysis, equally published in 1997, in which he establishes Freud’s failure to adequately think this process and proposes his own solution. To that effect, he submits Freud’s fundamental concepts, one by one, to a philosophical critique and redrafts them. It is above all Freud’s positivism and his approach through pathology that are targeted. For Vergote, sublimation cannot be thought of as ‘desexualizing’ sexual pulsion, but rather as a transformation in correlation with the constitution of the Ego, enabling the subject to experience pleasure by symbolic activities. Through human ‘negativity’, man transforms himself out of his pulsions, and becomes capable of creativity. Two other elements are to be mentioned to understand the constitution of the religious Eros. First, it is language that confers upon man his status as a subject and makes him aware of the divine. Secondly, the transition of this awareness of the divine to the recognition of God as a personal God, entailing the possibility of Love towards God, can only take place under the action of the divine father symbol in an homologous way as the working of the father symbol in the Oedipus complex, a central structuring event in the psychological development of the child.