This book builds on Robert Jay Liftons theory of psychic numbing, and takes madness as a guiding metaphor. It shows that public perceptions of the Bomb are a kaleidoscope of ever-changing ideas and images. Recent changes in public awareness only signal new symptoms of this public madness, symptoms unwittingly fostered by the antinuclear movement. Since the newest nuclear images follow the same psychological pattern as their predecessors, they are likely to lead us deeper into nuclear madness.
Chernus offers new interpretations of four major theorists int the psychology of religionPaul Tillich, R.D. Laing, Mircea Eliade, and James Hillmanto trace the roots of nuclear madness back to the onset of modernity, when the West gained technological mastery at the price of losing religious imagination and ontological security. The author develops an interpretation of Liftons own thought as an ontological and religious psychology. Drawing on the work of Eliade and Hillman, he goes on to suggest that madness reflects a repressed desire to transform life by opening up the floodgates of imagination. A conscious cultivation of the play of imagination can lead the way through madness to sanity and peace. But, imagination can only respond to the nuclear threat if it is acted out in a new brand of peace activism that blends pragmatic politics with psychological and religious transformation.
About the author
Ira Chernus is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is co-author of A Shuddering Dawn: Religious Studies and the Nuclear Age with Edward Tabor Linenthal, also published by SUNY Press.
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