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Date(s) - 26/05/2017
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Alliance française du Bengale


Alliance francaise du Bengale, Bengal Theosophical Federation & Culture Monks invite you to a talk and discussion on the following subject :

The Challenge of the Oceanic Feeling: Romain Rolland’s Mystical Critique of Psychoanalysis and His Call for a “New Science of the Mind” : A Talk by Ayon Maharaj

In a letter written in 1927, the French writer Romain Rolland asked Sigmund Freud to analyze the “oceanic feeling,” a religious feeling of oneness with the entire universe.

According to David Fisher and William Parsons, Rolland was encouraging Freud to provide a non-reductive psychoanalytic explanation of the oceanic feeling. I will argue, however, that Rolland’s intentions in introducing the oceanic feeling to Freud were much more complex, multifaceted, and critical than most scholars have acknowledged. To this end, I will examine Rolland’s views on mysticism and psychoanalysis in his book-length biographies of the Indian saints Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda, which he wrote just after he mentioned the oceanic feeling to Freud in 1927. In these biographies, Rolland not only polemicizes against psychoanalytic approaches to mystical experience but also encourages psychoanalysts to correct and deepen their superficial conception of the mind by taking seriously the mystical experiences of both Eastern and Western saints. With this background in place, I will argue that Rolland’s intentions in introducing the oceanic feeling to Freud in his 1927 letter were irreducibly complex. While Rolland’s manifest intention was, indeed, to encourage Freud to analyze the oceanic feeling from a psychoanalytic perspective, Rolland’s latent intention—less evident in his letters to Freud than in his biographies of Sri Ramakrishna and Vivekananda—was to challenge the fundamental assumptions of psychoanalysis from a mystical perspective and to confront Freud with a mystical “science of the mind” that he felt was more rigorous and comprehensive than Freud’s psychoanalytic science.

Ayon Maharaj is an assistant professor at Department of Philosophy, Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, Kolkata.