Psychoanalysis and the Parish Ministry

Harry B. Scholefield

Berry Street lecture, 1962


Delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly

Washington, D.C.

May 23, 1962


In the course of a ten-year pastorate in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to undertake an educative analysis under the auspices of the Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Institute. I began the didactic work and a personal analysis in the spring of 1954,and was graduated from the Institute in the spring of 1959. The core of the educative analysis pro­gram of the Institute is the personal analysis. In addition, the candidate for graduation must fulfill certain academic requirements, such as semi­nars, lecture courses, and extensive reading in the field of psychoanalysis, particularly the works of Freud. There are written examinations, and finally a paper and an oral examination, which, with the other require­ments, determine the candidate's readiness for graduation.


In this paper I shall consider some aspects of the educative analysis as they relate to the parish ministry. First, I wish to discuss the relation of the educative analysis to my preaching. Then I shall offer some general and speculative observations about pastoral counseling, specu­lations deriving in part from the educative analysis, in part from my own involvement in the counseling process, and in part from my read­ing and study of the subject.


The effect of analysis upon my preaching


To say that sermon composition has always been difficult for me is an understatement. It has always aroused anxieties that, I suspected, were far beyond any normal professional hazards. It was inevitable that many hours in my psychoanalysis would focus upon the problems of preaching, particularly that of sermon preparation. Through the weeks and months and years of my participation in the analytic process, some of the unconscious meanings related to the preaching process, as I experienced it, became apparent.


I gradually became aware specifically of factors that previously I had recognized only in a general sense as causes of anxiety. I became conscious of ways in which I was using my sermons for purposes I had not recognized before. I remember very well the analytic hour when I meant to say "sermon composition” and, tripped up by my uncon­scious, said "sermon competition.”


Let me now list some of my discoveries, or "uncoveries.”


I became aware of ways in which I was using my sermons to conceal myself from my congregation, rather than to share myself. I began to say ironically that a sermon is the minister's means of concealing his deeper feelings and concerns from his congregation.


I noted the subtle ways—and some not so subtle—in which, in my sermons, I would use the "solid” quotation, the experience of others, the eminent authority, not really as a means of exposition or elucidation, but actually as a means of putting someone between myself and the listening congregation.


I came to understand the meaning of "displacement,” and began to see how I had displaced upon patterns of sermon preparation fears and anxieties originating in experiences of early life and in my earliest re­lationships. I had, of course, studied "displacement” in the psycho­analytic literature and was familiar with it as a device or mechanism; but it became an elemental fact that I had to learn about myself, and it had many meanings with reference to my pulpit work.


I became aware of elements of basic distrust of life and a kind of sterile skepticism that interfered greatly with sermon preparation and that I had previously rationalized as intellectual doubt.


Wrestling with the problems of expression of belief, I realized that doubt can be as compulsively neurotic as can faith.


I became conscious of a fear of emptiness and impoverishment in sermon preparation that was not a realistic fear, but a neurotic anxiety. I came to call it the "fear-of-the-empty-cupboard complex”—the fear, that is, that when I went to prepare a sermon there would be nothing in the cupboard either for my own or for the congregation's nourish­ment. This can be more properly described as neurotic anxiety than as fear, for it was a substantial block to sermon preparation, even when my mind was well stocked with ideas and my days well filled with vital and growing experiences.


I became aware that I cherished much unconscious resentment against the sermon form, as well as against the form of the liturgy and the order of worship. This unconscious resentment stood in the way of my full utilization of these forms.


I recognized the fact that I was sensitive to criticism to an exag­gerated degree, and that I was unable to express mildly aggressive feel­ings without an unrealistic fear of retaliation on the congregation's part.


My need to be right, I learned, existed in highly exaggerated di­mensions.


I became increasingly aware of my tendency to think of the sermons as "made work,” a kind of ecclesiastical feather-bedding. (It was, in­deed, fortunate for me that my congregation almost invariably placed a much higher evaluation on my sermon work than I did. But it is also significant that the fact that they did so created additional problems for me because of my lack of self-acceptance. The inability to accept and genuinely and honestly to enjoy a compliment indicates a lack of self-acceptance.)


I became aware of ways in which my ability to communicate ideas and feelings was quite literally fouled up by my inner conflicts, so that, for example, I unconsciously expressed hostility when I meant to speak love and understanding.


No discipline places more emphasis upon the potentially curative effects of knowledge of the past than does psychoanalysis. Hence I must now say a word about my personal history.


At the age of five, under tragic circumstances, I lost both my father and my mother. My father disappeared. My mother committed suicide. My three brothers—two younger and one older—and I were placed in an orphanage. The youngest brother died shortly of diphtheria. The next youngest, only a year younger than I, drowned when I was ten. This left an older brother and me without any family. Until I was seventeen and a high school graduate, I was raised in institutions marked by strong emphasis on the importance of order, work, and discipline. The kind of discipline prevailing in these institutions, though sometimes cruel and erratic, was on the whole fair and consistent. The values were stern and puritanical, but they were dependable. The rules were rigor­ous, but they did not change.


It soon became apparent in the analysis that the experience of having my world quite literally shattered at the age of five had made it neces­sary for me to cling with peculiar intensity to the rules of the institu­tions in which I lived. I did this as a means of assuring myself a measure of badly needed security, and as a means, perhaps magical, of warding off some future tragedy that my unconscious told me was fated to over­take me.


Between my experience of life before the age of five, with a father and mother who were exceptionally warm and affectionate in their natures, and my experience after five in an institutional climate charac­terized by a lack of warmth and intimacy, there was a gap that could be bridged only with great difficulty. I bridged it, but in ways that contained the seeds of later conflicts. I learned early in life that it was easier to try to secure the approval of others than to try to be myself. I learned that trusting the rules was much safer than trusting my own feelings or the feelings of others.


One of the rich benefits of a personal analysis is the extensive con­sideration of dreams. I believe that dreams are, in truth, a gateway to self-understanding. I find now that dreams will tell me much about my­self. They have a way of compensating for the excessive face-toward-­busyness attitude likely to be so marked a feature of the present-day ministry. We who are ministers do well to recall the line from the Tal­mud: "A dream which is not understood is like a letter which is not opened.” Or we may well remember Emerson's words:


Sleep takes off the costume of circumstance, arms us with terrible free­dom, so   that every will rushes to a deed. A skillful man reads his dreams for his self-            knowledge; yet not the details, but the quality.


A dream recurrent during my analysis illustrated one aspect of my particular plight. In this dream, which is concerned with my symbols of office and my role as a preacher, I struggle to put on my academic gown and hood. As I struggle, I know that sermon time is close at hand and that this sermon and this church service from which my recalcitrant gown and hood are holding me back are particularly important. It is especially necessary that I be there, and on time. The urgency of the situation compounds my already high degree of frustration. I finally do get to the church service (a good aspect of my dreaming is that I almost always seem to reach my destination), but I arrive in a state of great exhaustion and anger, worn out by my struggle with the robe and the hood. In one dream of this kind, a woman is dressing me out­landishly and holding me back. She puts a baby bonnet on my head. The bonnet is heavily bordered with lace. When I get to the pulpit and begin my sermon, my voice seems to lisp and whistle as it sounds through the lace. In annoyance and anger, I tear the baby bonnet from my head and proceed with the sermon, feeling much freer and stronger.


It appears that the sermon form I found so frustrating was not only symbolic of the institutional rules that "saved my life” in the early years, though I resented them so much; it may also have been a symbol of the early controls that my mother exercised over me and used for a variety of purposes. Conceivably, in the months leading up to her tragic death, these controls were accentuated. With the loss of my mother and my father, and with their places taken by the orphanage authorities who were the parental surrogates, the controls became impersonal, tighter. Obviously, their tightness and impersonality brought added hazards for a young child's development.


I cannot go into these hazards in detail, but one of them, readily understandable in the light of my situation, was the need to feel grateful, the need to be approved. I had to be grateful as a sign of my apprecia­tion of what they, the authorities, were doing for me. If I was ungrate­ful, I stood in danger of being cast off, of having my world go to pieces again. Of course, mingled with the "gratitude” was anger, largely un­expressed. And mingled with both these feelings was a deep fear of disapproval. These feelings, appropriate in my relation to the institutions of my childhood, became displaced upon the institutions of adulthood. Sometimes the displacement was appropriate enough, but at other times it was highly inappropriate, and this gave rise to severe problems.


I carried these feelings over in my attitude toward the "demands” of my profession. When in the pulpit, I had the feeling that what I "offered” my congregation—and of course in the analysis this applied also to what I "offered” my analyst—must meet with approval or I was a "bad boy.” To be a "bad boy” in my unconscious was hazardous in the extreme. "Bad boys” get punished, not in any reasonable way, but by having their outward circumstances go to pieces. The sermon thus became a pivotal responsibility, but one that had to be understood in terms of the demands of the past as well as of the demands of the pres­ent. It was the means by which I could secure good grades, desperately needed approval, and security. So, sermon preparation took on the painful character of studying for an examination upon which life itself depended, an examination to be taken, my unconscious told me, under the eve of the harshest kind of taskmaster.


Naturally, it was difficult for me to express with comfort even a normal amount of aggression, because in my unconscious I confused love with submission and healthy aggression with the kind of hatred that courts destruction.


Material in the analysis that related to the death of my mother threw light on elements in the unconscious revealing great anxiety over whether or not I had any right at all to preach. This flowered into my "fear-of-­the-empty-cupboard complex.” It developed that I felt guilt over the death of my younger brother. The conscious rationale of this guilt was the fact that on the day he drowned, I had expressed to a schoolmate the hope that we would be given the afternoon off from our work. We were given the afternoon off, and the tragedy ensued. I bitterly blamed myself for his death. Back of my harsh self-reproach lay an unusually intense sibling rivalry. It appeared that the guilt experienced here may have screened a deeper source of guilt stemming from my mother's death. It was indicated that unconsciously I felt that much of what had happened to me had happened because of my own badness. Uncon­sciously, I assumed perhaps that even the loss of my parents was the result of this badness.


So it was not surprising that a question basic in the analysis was not how to compose sermons—I did this with satisfactory results. More dis­turbing for me was the question whether or not I had any right to be composing sermons. Granted that I could perform this task and perform it well, did I have the right to pretend to be good?


To put it a bit differently, sermon composition was difficult for me because sermons could lead to self-exposure. To expose a bad self is an unhappy business. Thus, the unconscious aim of sermon preparation had to be self-concealment rather than self-expression. Self-concealment, however, is also bad, because it is a form of dishonesty. So I stood be­tween the devil and the deep blue sea. Sermon composition leads to self-exposure, which is dangerous, or to dishonesty, which is bad. There can, therefore, be no pleasure or deep satisfaction in it.


I spoke earlier of my tendency to regard sermonizing as ecclesiastical feather-bedding and to downgrade the sermon-writing process. There were a good many occasions in the analytic hours when my associations to my sermons were all excremental in character. I constantly down­graded them, regarding them as waste products, taking what comfort I could from the thought that what was excremental might at least have a fertilizing potential. Just about the best thing I could say of one of my homiletic endeavors was that a flower might blossom even from a dunghill!


It was obvious, particularly in the dream material in the analysis, that I displaced much anxiety with regard to sexuality onto sermon prepara­tion. Quite early it became apparent that there was a relation between my difficulty in associating to sexual material and my difficulty with sermon composition. My silences and blockings on these occasions were a product of my lack of acceptance of my feelings and impulses. They stemmed in part from resentment at the analyst for making the same de­mands on me that were made by my congregation: namely, that I strip myself bare. As a matter of fact, the discipline of free association, which is a primary factor in analysis, was more cruel than preaching. In preach­ing, one at least had a chance to prepare oneself, which might also be interpreted as a chance to disguise oneself; nor did the rules of preaching deny the right to that choice between alternative thoughts that is our freedom. To practice free association was to say actually what I thought and felt at any given moment, not what someone else wanted me to think or to feel. I found the discipline of free association, exercised through hundreds of hours of analysis, a curious adjunct to hours spent in sermon preparation. I am not yet sure what the carry-over effect will be. As with the steady and consistent practice of meditation, it takes time for the discipline exercised in an analysis to permeate the full personality.


I have mentioned some of the ways in which the personal analysis related to my preaching in order to make the point that psychoanalysis affects professional competency at a deep feeling level. Another minister with a different family constellation and a different life pattern would be affected in different ways.


The positive effect that the analysis had on me in the area of preach­ing may be summed up as follows. In arriving at a higher degree of self-acceptance and self-knowledge, I resolved, or at least began to see, some of the conflicts underlying the excessive difficulty I experienced in ser­mon preparation. I became aware, as I have indicated, that many of the uses I was making of sermons or sermonizing were at variance with my conscious intent. I lived through a good many conflicts. I had a good many encounters with my unconscious, which at first I denied were relevant to the problems inherent in sermon composition. But as I lived through these encounters, I began to see that I did have a right to preach, and I began gradually to put a fresh and higher value on the pulpit and is varied meanings. I use the word "began” because the effort to gain self-knowledge is unending. A psychoanalysis is a beginning and a con­tinuing, effort at self-understanding. Freud makes this point in his paper, "Analysis Terminable and Interminable.”[1] There comes a date when one stops seeing one's analyst. There is a merciful termination of the fee-paying privilege. But irrespective of whether or not one returns to the formal analytic process, as Freud suggests both patient and analyst should from time to time, there is no doubt that the introspective proc­esses and the growth in self-awareness—the increasing appreciation of the unconscious factors present in one's character and personality—are instruments one does not put by with the conclusion of the therapeutic hours. I am aware that my analysis continues to influence me in the tasks of sermon composition. These tasks continue to be difficult, but not as difficult. Often, analysis does not remove problems so much as it makes them tolerable and understandable. It provides a vantage point from which to work more intelligently against problems, and this is no small gift or accomplishment.


Psychoanalysis and the understanding of counseling


I turn now to a consideration of the effect that psychoanalysis has had on my own understanding of pastoral counseling. Here I shall be perhaps more speculative, certainly less personal.


I had hoped that an educative analysis would make completely clear for me the role of the clergyman in pastoral counseling, and that it would make the problems of pastoral counseling both apparent and transparent. Regrettably, I have not found this to be the case. Analysis has changed my own attitude toward pastoral counseling and also has changed my procedures and techniques somewhat. But I still find it dif­ficult to state what I consider a clergyman's distinctive role as a pastoral counselor to be, and it is only quite recently that I have begun to see certain problems and issues relative to the function of the clergyman as a counselor with any degree of clarity.


I am aware that our need as clergymen to achieve certain practical goals in pastoral counseling often outweighs in our minds the importance of theoretic implications. This puts us in a trap where we may disregard theory in favor of practical benefits, as though theory and practice were somehow unrelated. In his brilliant book, Freud: the Mind of the Moralist, Philip Rieff raises danger signals for those who are careless of the interrelation between practice and theory. He makes the point that theologians should be extremely careful in subjoining to their theologies such Freudian terms, or the Freudian use of such terms, as "guilt,” "anxiety,” and "conscience.” Freud, he argues, uses these terms in an atheological sense. Rieff is even more concerned lest a blurred and muddy rapprochement between psychoanalysis and religion should take place through, as he puts it, "the affinities which have been discovered between the pastoral techniques of religion and the therapeutic tech­niques of psychiatry.”[2] Rieff is worried—as are other thinkers—lest the identification of pastoral counseling with therapeutic techniques asso­ciated with psychoanalysis be an exercise in fuzziness that will ultimately bring discredit and confusion upon both psychoanalysis and the church.


I am impressed by the great need for clarification of roles in this area of practical co-operation. The clergyman is caught between the danger of being too obsequious in his relation to the psychoanalyst, the psy­chologist, or the psychiatrist and the danger of endeavoring to emulate the role of the depth psychologist, not because he is capable of such emulation, but because of his fundamental uncertainty and anxiety re­garding his own vocation. The two dangers are not unrelated.


I think we need to remember the plurality of viewpoints existing in the psychological camp. As I read the works of psychotherapists such as Erik Erikson, Erich Fromm, Rollo May, Allen Wheelis, and others, I am impressed with the fact that there is a good deal more diversity in the psychoanalytic camp with regard to presuppositions, theories of dy­namics, and techniques than we usually assume. I do not mean to imply that there is not a vast body of therapeutic techniques used in common. I do mean to say that there is a large difference between the humanistic psychoanalysis of an Erich Fromm, psychoanalysis as it is set forth by Freud and practiced by the Freudians, and the existentialist therapy de­lineated and practiced by the Rollo Mays and the Viktor Frankls. When you include the clinical psychologists, the spectrum becomes even wider. This pluralism extends through the ranks of psychologists (I use the term "psychologist” as being inclusive of psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, and psychologists).


Carl Rogers, in his book On Becoming a Person, expresses the con­viction that "it is the attitudes and feelings of the therapist rather than his theoretical orientation which is important.”[3] If we go to the opposite point of view and consider the doctrinaire Freudian with his great stress upon the importance of technique and theoretical orientation, we begin to see how broad the spectrum is. I have not mentioned the difference between the Freudians and the Jungians. My point is that this plurality of approaches to therapy on the part of the psychologists should belie the attitude common among the clergy that the psychologists have one answer to the problem of personality and character disorders that all clergymen should immediately make their own. The pluralistic character of the answers coming out of psychology is something for clergymen to learn from, rather than gloat over.


If there is a good deal of diversity and much questioning going on in the ranks of the psychologists relative to the larger context in which therapy takes place, there is an increasingly sensitive interest in the theo­logical implications of therapy among the theologians. There are also developments in psychotherapy that seem to be bringing the psychol­ogists and the theologians closer together, though not merging them. I am thinking now especially of the existential therapists, with their con­centration upon the meaning of existence as being deeply relevant to the health of the person. Ludwig Binswanger describes existentialist psycho­therapy in these words:

A psychotherapy on existential-analytic bases investigates the life-history of the              patient to be treated . . . but it does not explain this life-history and its pathologic idiosyncrasies according to the teachings of any school of psychotherapy, or by means of its preferred categories. Instead it understands this life-history as modifications of the total structure of the patient's being-in-the-world.[4]

From a theological perspective, Samuel H. Miller has stated the problem that depth psychology poses for theology in these words:

Freudian research, as revolutionary as the Copernican theory, has de­stroyed the equilibrium of modern man. Happening in association with other powerful social and cultural forces, the opening up of vast psychic spaces deep within man's own center has disturbed his relationships at every level of his many-faceted life. . . . We now know that we have not been as much in control of ourselves as we thought, and the powers and mechanisms which have determined our character and overt actions were mysteriously beyond our reach for the most part.[5]


Various contemporary theologians are seeking to come to terms with the problem as Miller outlines it. Let me mention a few who are grap­pling with it in its theoretic dimensions without ignoring the importance of relating the practical to the theoretic.


The long opening essay by Henry Nelson Wieman in his book, Intellectual Foundation of Faith, represents a serious effort to deal with the question: What can save man from his self-destructive propensities?[6] Wieman is concerned to show that religious faith—and he is speaking specifically of liberal religious faith—seeks to meet man both at the level of his creative and destructive propensities and at the level of his uncon­scious and conscious needs. He contends that liberal religious faith in itstrue dimensions can meet the challenges posed by the intrapsychic spaces of which Miller writes and can meet them more thoroughly and ade­quately than any other form of religious faith.


Paul Tillich is an even more notable example of a theologian who seeks to bridge the chasm that for some time has existed between psy­chology and theology. He is well aware of the conflict between the two disciplines, but feels that at least part of the responsibility for it lies in the psychologists' camp and in the area of unexamined presuppositions.


When faith speaks of the ultimate dimension in which man lives, and in which he can win or lose his soul, or of the ultimate meaning of his existence, it is not interfering at all with the scientific rejection of the con­cept of the soul. A psychology without soul cannot deny this, nor can a psychology with soul confirm it. The truth of man's eternal meaning lies in a dimension other than the truth of adequate psychological concepts. Contemporary analytic or depth psychology has in many instances conflicted with pretheological and theological expressions of faith. It is, how­ever, not difficult in the statements of depth psychology to distinguish the more or less verified observations and hypotheses from assertions about man's nature and destiny which are clearly expressions of faith. The natural­istic elements which Freud carried from the nineteenth into the twentieth century, his basic puritanism with respect to love, his pessimism about cul­ture, and his reduction of religion to an ideological projection are all expressions of faith and not the result of scientific analyses. There is no reason to deny to a scholar who deals with man and his predicament the right to introduce elements of faith. But if he attacks other forms of faith in the name of scientific psychology, as Freud and many of his followers do, he is confusing dimensions.[7]

This quotation may seem to indicate that Tillich is basically hostile to the findings of depth psychology, but this is not the case. As I read Tillich, he is deeply sensitive to and grateful for the capacity that depth psychology has to correct, clarify, and illuminate theological concepts. I think this recognition of the contribution of depth psychology to the­ology stands out clearly in hisThe Courage to Be.[8]


Still another theologian of the first rank who talks to the theoretic problems posed in the area of the relation between theology and psy­chology is Martin Buber. When Buber was in this country a few years ago, he addressed the School of Psychiatry in Washington. Later on he entered into a discussion with Carl Rogers. He and Rogers found com­mon ground. Rogers recognizes, for example, the profundity of Buber's insight into the process by which one person confirms another. Buber writes of this confirming process: 

Confirming . . . means accepting the whole personality of the other. . . . I can recognize in him, know in him, the person he has been ... created to be­come. . . . I confirm him in myself and then in him, in relation to this poten­tiality that ... can now be developed, and evolved.[9]

Rogers sees in Buber's insight verification of the insight produced by a group of research psychologists who have been working with schizo­phrenics in the area of "manufactured relationships.” He sees in Buber's insight a verification of hypotheses coming out of his own clinical ex­periences. My point is that there is a crossing of the lines here. We have one of the most distinguished theologians of the age and one of the most distinguished psychologists learning from one another, exploring their language, their concepts, their experiences in human relationships, to find common ground.


It is apparent that theologians such as Wieman and Buber and Tillich, whom I have named, and others who could be named—Hans Hofmann, Seward Hiltner, Charles A. Curran, and George Hagmaier come to mind—are raising fundamental questions with regard to the interrela­tions between religion and psychology. These questions pertain to the nature of man, man's relatedness to man, the implications of religious experience and belief for human life. Such theologians raise these ques­tions against a background of sophistication. These men are well in­formed about the findings of psychology. In an open spirit, they propose answers to the questions they raise. So there is a dialogue going on be­tween theologians and psychologists.


One of the questions frequently recurring in this dialogue at both the practical and theoretic level is whether or not the clergyman has a unique role. Or, assuming that the role of the minister is different but not unique, what are some of the essential differences between him and the psychologist (using the term "psychologist” in a comprehensive sense)? I offer only very tentatively held points of view here. I am not sure that there is any absolute difference. I am inclined to think that the difference between one psychiatrist and another may be greater than the difference between a particular psychiatrist and a particular clergyman. This applies to schools of theological thought and schools of psychology as well as to individuals. There are basic differences in aim, in technique, in time allotted to treatment, and in training. There are basic differences in categories of thought and interpretation. There are basic differences in what I would call community-representation and community-expecta­tion.


It does not do, I think, to say simply that the clergyman works at the surface of consciousness and the psychologist works in the uncon­scious depths. Seward Hiltner takes the word "depth” and makes some­thing of a distinction in this area. The psychoanalyst, he points out, may use "depth” to refer to a kind of treatment or treatment process in which he utilizes the method of free association to uncover repressed material stemming from the very earliest experiences of life. He regards these early traumatic experiences as the root causes of character and per­sonality disorder. He directs his attention to pathological conditions and he uses language and concepts that have meaning chiefly in the context of pathology. Hiltner points out that the clergyman may take the same word—depth—and give it a new set of meanings that are as valid for him and his counseling undertakings as the meanings given to the word by the depth psychologists are valid in another sense. By "depth” the clergyman may refer to a parishioner's capacity to set his life in new dimensions. These dimensions would include, on the parishioner's part, a more profound understanding of the nature of good and evil, a fuller acceptance, through an open and daring faith, of the potential goodness of life—what the Psalmist calls "the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Seward Hiltner contends that pastoral counseling in depth leads to the asking of the deeper questions of life at both a feeling and an in­tellectual level; it leads also to a higher dimension of ultimate concern.[10]


I am aware that there are many ways in which the clergyman is dif­ferent and set apart from the psychotherapist. I am also aware that, in the therapeutic process as the psychotherapists describe it, there is a mood, texture, uncovering, synthesizing, and a raising of the deep ques­tions that we may describe as "religious.” Certainly we would describe them as an experience of ultimate concern, of wonder, and even of worship. Thinkers like Buber and Tillich contend that there are mo­ments of "truth” in the psychotherapeutic hours, when the therapist is primarily influential not as a doctor, technician, or professional man, but as a person. There are moments when the deepest meanings of his own life intersect the line of the patient's life. There are moments of I-thou dialogue. The Swiss psychiatrist, Paul Tournier, in his book, The Mean­ing of Persons, dealing with his own experience as a therapist, makes the same point.


There are then two routes to be followed in the knowledge of man: one is objective and scientific, the other is subjective and intuitive. They cannot be equated together, for they require the exercise of utterly dif­ferent faculties. One proceeds by logical analysis and precise assessment; the other by a total understanding. One is an endless progression; the other is a sudden and complete discovery.


The two roads do cross, however. Objective exploration prepares the way for the

personal encounter, as we have just seen. Conversely, the personal encounter opens the road for more penetrating objective observation. Such is my daily experience, as it is also of those of my colleagues who claim that they are confining themselves strictly to the scientific point of view, though it is a fact they may not always admit. The personal com­munion which is established between them and their patients removes psy­chological "censorship” in the latter, so opening the door to a profounder study of their psychical mechanisms.[11]


I think it would be hard to imagine a more "religious” experience than the one described by Rollo May in excerpts from a patient's case history found in his book, Existence. The patient is attempting to say what an experience of being means. It is significant that here is a well-known psychotherapist talking about treatment, psychotherapeutic treat­ment, in terms of an experience of being; but these are words from the patient herself.


What is this experience like? It is a primary feeling—it feels like receiving the deed to my house. . . . It is like when a very young child I once reached the core of a peach and cracked the pit, not knowing what I would find and then feeling the wonder of finding the inner seed, good to eat in its bitter sweetness. . . . It is like the experience of the poets of the intuitive world, the mystics, except that instead of the pure feeling of and union with God it is the finding of and the union with my own being. It is like owning Cinderella's shoe and looking all over the world for the foot it will fit and realizing all of a sudden that one's own foot is the only one it will fit. It is like a child in grammar finding the subject of the verb in a sentence—in this case the subject being one's own life span. It is ceasing to feel like a theory toward one's self.[12]


Or take another statement, this time from a psychiatrist, not from a patient. It is from Robert C. Murphy's little essay entitled "Psychother­apy Based on Human Longing.”


The therapist must know that his work, no matter how "intuitive,” is nevertheless bound firmly to natural law governing the causal chain of mental processes. For no phenomenon has ever been discovered either of "matter” or "spirit,” which   escapes from this law, and Freud's rigorous determinism cannot be reversed by all the attacks which offended people have made on it. Man is truly free, in the fullest and most magnificent sense of the word, and it may be conceded that   Freud's thought brought him to only the most rudimentary grasp of this truth. But this freedom cannot be discovered on the level of awareness represented by reason, logic and the scientific dis­cipline to which throughout his life he gave such faithful allegiance. Man's freedom is self-evident. It cannot be made "scientific,” or "proved,” any more than can his existence. It can be apprehended only on the level of un­derstanding which underlies science itself and which makes it possible. Man is free insofar as his life becomes comprehensible to him, and acquires mean­ing, which is to say: insofar as it expresses his basic longing. It is precisely on this level that the communications between psychotherapist and patient are rooted.[13]

I raise these questions with respect to similarities and dissimilarities as they exist between pastoral counseling and other forms of psycho­therapy, as they exist between roles of ministers and psychologists, with­out having any definitive answers. We are, it seems to me, just beginning to face the problem.


Let me close with a few observations on pastoral counseling.


The essential aim of pastoral counseling is to communicate to another person the sense of the possibility of new being, new life. This new life is born in part out of the dialogue in which the two persons concerned engage, a dialogue that is much more than an exchange of rational, ver­balized thought. The clergyman performs a kind of midwife's role, helping the new life to be born, or helping the old life to know its ca­pacity for newness. The midwife analogy breaks down before we carry it very far, because the relation between the clergyman and the parishioner being counseled is such that the clergyman helps to create the new life as well as to bring it forth. Indeed, he and the parishioner create it together.


What the clergyman is is more deeply significant than what he knows in an intellectual sense. What he is may be, of course, very different from what the parishioner thinks he is, or even from what he himself thinks he is.


Technique is important. Trying to understand the workings of personality the forces going into the formation of character—trying to understand what has often been called "the interior life”—without knowledge of the techniques utilized by modern psychotherapists, who are in a sense specialists in the exploration of inner space, is like trying to go into outer space without utilizing the knowledge of the space technologists.


The clergyman speaks out of his own self-awareness.


The clergyman does not force his own coat of armor onto the shoulders of his parishioner. He knows well what would have happened to David if David had been forced to use Saul's armor in the battle against Goliath rather than relying on his own weapons, his own method, his own kind of strength!


The clergyman is open enough to let the parishioner know—and he does not have to do it too obviously—where the mainsprings of his own strength are. This may well involve the sharing of prayer, meditation, readings, vital insights, and personal experiences.


The clergyman will know how to listen.


There is, however, no trick or safe method to make counseling vital. I recall words used by Hans Hofmann in a slightly different connection.

The closer we come to the core of what being human means, the less we are prone to need scientific or philosophical approximations. It is painful and frightening to look honestly at life as it really is. The greatest difficulty is to drop our conventional and often hypocritical masks.[14]

There is another side to the story. When one learns to share one's self with another person, sometimes in the midst of the experience there occur happenings infinitely difficult to describe. At times there comes into the counseling process the intention to live. It comes as an integrat­ing element transcending the limits of the two lives that have come together for a time. There can be present in the counseling experience a human longing for wholeness that is poignantly beautiful. Not infrequently, the counselor may feel that his life and the life of the person with him are part of a flowing river rising from the deepest wellsprings of existence. Life is present in frightening and disturbing forms. Life is present also at a depth that evokes love, wonder, and celebration.



[1] Freud, Sigmund, Collected Papers, vol. 5. London, The Hogarth Press, 1950, p. 353.


[2] Rieff, Philip, Freud: the Mind of the Moralist. New York, The Viking Press, 1959, p. 273.


[3] Rogers, Carl R., On Becoming a Person. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1959, p. 44.


[4] May, Rollo, ed., Existence. New York, Basic Books, Inc., 1958, p. 5.


[5] Hofmann, Hans, ed., Making the Ministry Relevant. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1960, pp. 59, 60.


[6] Wieman, Henry Nelson, Intellectual Foundation of Faith. New York, Philosophical Library, Inc., 1961, p. 1.


[7] Tillich, Paul, Dynamics of Faith. New York, Harper & Bros., 1957 (World Perspective Series, vol. 10), p. 84.


[8]  _______ , The Courage to Be. New Haven, Yale University Press, 1952.


[9] Rogers, Carl R., op. cit., p. 55.


[10] Hiltner, Seward, and Colston, Lowell G., The Context of Pastoral Counseling. Nashville, Tenn., Abingdon Press, 1961, p. 125.


[11] Tournier, Paul, The Meaning of Persons. New York, Harper & Bros., 1957, p. 25.


[12] May, Rollo, op. cit., p. 43.


[13] May, Rollo, op. cit., p. 43.


[14] Murphy, Robert C., "Psychotherapy Based on Human Longing." Pendle Hill Pamphlet III, Wallingford, Pa., 1960, pp. 8, 9.