Raymond Lawrence and Sigmund Freud: Passionate Defiance -- By Ed Hennig, D.Min.

18 Nov 2015 10:38 AM | Perry Miller, Editor

For those who don’t know me, I was in the second wave of those who became CPSP Diplomates in 1990.  Raymond was one of my ACPE training supervisors at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, Houston, Texas, 1973-1974.  I was told by one of the members of the ACPE certification committee which I met in 1989 that if Raymond had not been on the committee that I would not have been certified as a full supervisor.  At that time, Raymond was just beginning to become the prolific writer that he is today.  I have always felt that his writings were provocative.  Now I think a better description is passionately defiant.  Perhaps parallel to one of Raymond’s gurus, the founding father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.  This is how I experienced Raymond in his new book:  Nine Clinical Cases:  The Soul of Pastoral Care and Counseling.

This term, passionately defiant, came to me serendipitously.  It was while I was recently reading his book and happened also to be reading Peter Gay’s classic:  Freud:  A Life for Our Time.  I was struck how parallel Raymond and Freud are in being passionately defiant in their writings For this parallel, I draw upon Gay’s section in his book in describing Freud’s “Defiance Identity” (pp. 597-610).  “Freud’s defiant cast of mind,” as a Jew, Gay writes, “permitted him to offend Jewish sensibilities” in his “subversive attitude toward respectable sexual mores” (p. 610).  Is this not a striking parallel to Raymond as an ordained Episcopal priest confronting the sexual mores (ethics) of the Church in Poisoning of Eros: Sexual Values in Conflict?

Another one.  As Gay instructs us, “Freud saw himself…as a marginal man” which he felt “gave him an inestimable advantage.”  For, identifying himself as a “completely godless Jew” and being offensive to some of his fellow professors, Freud felt “prepared the way for a certain independence of judgment” (p. 602).  His defiance gave him some creative objectivity in the development of his psychoanalytic thought and practice.  

Isn’t this parallel to Raymond’s rather defiant remark in his book that the chaplain should be agnostic?  “The proper posture of a clinical chaplain is agnostic, regardless of the chaplain’s own personal beliefs and allegiances” (p. 29).  As Freud would, doesn’t Raymond see this  objective stance as a necessity vs. “indoctrination and proselytizing” (unacceptable “in the clinical setting,” p. 30)?  Much like Freud, I suspect, Raymond’s defiant opposition to the pious-powers-that-be would assert that the chaplain’s agnosticism vs. being doctrinal and evangelistic is a requirement for competent pastoral care and counseling.

In a further Pastoral Report, I will explore in more detail some of Raymond’s passionately defiant, and some not so defiant, points in his rebuttal of the book he is addressing:  George Fitchett and Steve Nolan, Spiritual Care in Practice:  Case Studies in Healthcare Chaplaincy.  I had to smile as Raymond states in his Preface that his book was “actually little more than an expanded book review of the Fitchett-Nolan book” (p. 8).  I suspect that those on the Fitchett-Nolan side must wonder how much more defiant would Raymond’s critique be if he had chosen to write more than “just a little…expanded book review.”

Like this one, my next article in a Pastoral Report will be more than just a little expanded book review.  After all, in the last paragraph of his Preface, Raymond invites as much.  He neither wants to coddle nor to be coddled.  He does not want “to be spared strong rebuttal” (p. 9).  


Ed Hennig, D.Min.