Saturday, March 31, 2007

Using Psychohistory on Luther

One thing about trying to figure out Martin Luther, Roman Catholics can certainly be creative:

“Luther was brutually[sic] beaten as a child and in his own words admits that he entered the monastery to save his life. He was indeed a brilliant Biblical scholar. However, because of his brilliance, he was elevated quickly through the ranks of the Church.When the Wittenburg[sic] plague happened, I believe his old childhood demons returned to torment him. He suffered terribly from scrupulosity[sic]: whipping himself, starving himself, depriving himself of sleep, and rejecting the comfort of his monastic community.His interchanges with Eck bore the hallmarks of PTSD. Self-reliance, suspicion (or even hatred) of authority figures, snarling violent defensiveness. By the time he formulated his Sola-Everything theories, he was a very troubled soul; his thinking replete with cognitive distortions.Let us remember that the tree is known by its fruit. Luther's chief allays were ambitious and very secular-minded knights who used the new ideologies to drive their own political influence. Even Henry Tudor, whom Luther ignored, took advantage of the ideologies to rebel -- not on theological grounds but on the grounds of producing an heir.”

Sorry, but I try not to participate in discussions with those using psychohistory. The psychohistory approach to Luther is the method of applying the science of psychoanalysis to a historical figure. This view holds history is more than simply “facts”- it is also the result of psychological forces that drive people to do what they do.
The problem: the psycho-historians all end up differently. Men like Denifle, Grisar, Smith, and Erikson used a similar approach in trying to understand Luther, none of them arrive at the same conclusions- or even minimize or maximize similar conclusions. So, even though Luther produced a large corpus of writings to draw analysis from, each of these psychohistorians arrive at different conclusions when digging for pychohistory "facts" .
How can someone do psychology on a dead man? One cannot. Thus, the psychohistory method, while interesting, should not be one’s main approach to learning about Martin Luther.For a more in-depth treatment, see my blog entry here.
"Do you believe that Luther's theories and behaviour were rational?"
Which part of "Sorry, but I don’t engage in discussions with those using psychohistory" didn't you understand?
"Wow! That's breathtakingly rude. How do you justify such behaviour on a Catholic forum?"
I do not "do" psychohistory. Sorry.It is frustrating when I made this clear, only to have another psychohistory question returned. Please, no more of these type of questions, I'm not interested.
And then, not to be outdone, a massive reply, note this guy thinks i'm advertising my book-
"May I ask you to consider the possibility that this is not your own private forum. Nor is it primarily designed to advertise your book. I am not saying that your posts are uninteresting or without merit. They are certainly very interesting and with much merit. That is not the point. First of all I understand your decision to remain within the boundaries of your particular historical analysis. That makes perfect sense to me. But, as you must surely know, there are other forms of analysis. And once you post on this forum, what you say is fair game and subject to any number of analytical methologies -- or lack thereof. To archly disallow any form of criticism but that which you approve is imho highly questionable in any academic community and even more so on this particular forum. Now I will concede that some forms of analysis are... well... worse than useless. Generally speaking psychobabble annoys me too. However it is contingent on you to consider more than one aspect of any one analytical methodology. And to address those aspects with not only rigour but also respect. That is so obvious that it surprises me that there is any need for a reminder.Certainly the practical use of an analytical approach is worthy of examination. The useful aspect of considering Luther's family background is that it sheds light not only on what may have been his own barriers to rationality -- if you will -- or community -- if you will -- or even courtesy -- if you will. It also sheds light on barriers that our contemporaries may have against same, and particularly against the Church.Let us keep in mind that what you find useful could quite well be different from what another person finds useful. Understanding what a major historical figure had against the Church is profoundly useful for Catholics.Of course we can't ascertain for sure whether or not Luther had PTSD. But we can draw parallels between his behaviour and the behaviour of our contemporaries who do have PTSD, while allowing for culturally and historically specific norms. If we can't draw parallels then what can we learn from history -- your version or anyone else's version -- that is of any use to anyone at all?The validity of psychohistorical approach is not diminished simply because three authors reached different conclusions. Moreover, when all is said and done, questioning the rationality of Luther's theories is not a psychohistorical question.Finally, I cannot stress the importance of courtesy enough. You must know better than to take the approach you have. Since when has any useful research come of discarding a friendly demeanor?I'm really not wanting any answers from you. Only that you exercise some restraint and respect in imposing your own norms on others who may wish to contribute to the discussion. Is that not a legitimate request? Is it unfair? Is it unreasonable?"

Funny how this guy began with certainty of his psychohistorical approach, and then when confronted as to the worth of this approach, it becomes theoretical. To engage in a discussion like this is to spin one’s wheels indefinitely. It is a conversation of pure speculation, only to be enjoyed by those bent on sophistry. It is usually an example of a double standard as well, because the same approach is not applied to those put forth as Roman Catholic heroes. Luther is assumed to have deep psychosis, while others are let off this his hook, despite whatever the historical record says of them. The reason? Why, they defend Rome, so they’re ok.

In regard to the proper protocol of the Catholic Answers forums, the topic category this posted in was “Sacred Scripture” so, the direction of this thread and this sub-forum would necessitate that it was this guy's speculative comments which don’t belong. Finally, I am not advertising a book. I don’t know where he got that from. It is Catholic apologist Gary Michuta who had been advertising his book, not me.

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