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Record Type: Review   ID: 784

Understanding the Occult: Fragmentation and Repair of the Self

Gay, Volney P.

 The author, who is a professor of religious studies and psychiatry, puts forth a "causal" hypothesis for occult beliefs, illustrating it with examples taken from the lives of well-known as well as ordinary persons. His theory is that occult beliefs are not the result of rational choice. Rather, they have their origin in a deep stratum of the personality, and as the results of an occult mood that arises in response to certain life events. They "are the products of previous experiences; they are the effects of earlier causes; they are the visible outcomes of invisible processes" (p. xiii). His concern does not deal with the issue of the truth or falsity of occult beliefs but why they arise when they do and the purpose they serve. The conditions of an occult mood, according to Gay, are an intense relationship in which a person feels a sense of increased self-integration because of the other. Second, whether by death, a break-up, or some other circumstance, the relationship ends. The person who had experienced integration now is distraught and psychologically disorganized—sometimes to the extent of experiencing self-fragmentation. In response to this fragmentation and disorganization, the occult event occurs. It serves to repair, if only for a brief term, the fragmented self. He closes with a chapter describing some alternative solutions to fragmentation anxiety.
Publisher Information:Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1989. 232p. Bibl: 212-214; Chap. bibl: 215-228; Index: 229-232
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