From David’s Lyre to the incantation bowls: A Jungian archetypal approach to the evolving psychological function of belief in evil spirits for treating mental illness in ancient Judaism
Date: 13 March 2023
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
MA by Research in Theology and Religion
This thesis seeks to further our understanding the psychological functions of developing beliefs and treatments concerning evil spirits within ancient Judaism. An interdisciplinary approach grounded in medical humanities will be taken, utilising current scholarship concerning Jewish magic and Jungian psychoanalysis. Within the Hebrew ...
This thesis seeks to further our understanding the psychological functions of developing beliefs and treatments concerning evil spirits within ancient Judaism. An interdisciplinary approach grounded in medical humanities will be taken, utilising current scholarship concerning Jewish magic and Jungian psychoanalysis. Within the Hebrew Bible few references are made to evil spirits, however, by the Common Era, a new understanding of evil spirits had developed. This grew out of the Watcher tradition and regarded evil spirits as disembodied souls of the children of fallen angels and human women depicted in Genesis 6:1-4. The reasons for this shift and the possible psychological implications have not been explored in current literature. It will be argued that belief in evil spirits emerged out of psychological stresses affecting those communities and magic performed a vital function in dealing with the threats they posed. Shifting aetiologies from the Hebrew Bible through to late antiquity are therefore crucial to understanding changes in the attributed causes and treatments of illness. Building on pre-existing literature from psychoanalysis and Psychological Biblical Criticism, this thesis will establish a method for recognising and drawing out these themes within ancient Jewish sources. Existing scholarship applies Freudian analysis to the Incantation Bowls and Ancient Mesopotamian sources, offering unique insights into how and why magic worked as therapy. Their findings will be shown to be limited by Freudian focus on the psychosexual. In contrast, Carl Jung’s work considers a broader spectrum of influences on the psyche. Consequently, a Jungian hermeneutical lens will be employed with the aim of going beyond previous Freudian readings to facilitate deeper analysis. Having examined the psychological factors influencing the development of the Watcher tradition, specific examples of affliction by evil spirits from the Hebrew Bible and Aramaic Incantation Bowls will be examined through the Jungian archetypes of spirit and mother. It is hoped that a Jungian hermeneutical lens will enable deeper understanding of how beliefs concerning evil spirits developed and why prescribed magical practices functioned as effective therapeutic tools. While the present study will only explore a small selection of available sources, it aims to demonstrate the validity of the method and potential benefits of further study of the wider Jewish magical corpus.
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