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Religious Ecstasy and Personality Transformation in John Wesley's Methodism: Theoretical and Methodological Considerations

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This paper examines the contemplative techniques that comprised wesley's method of spiritual transformation. By employing a psychoanalytic perspective that explains the pastoral effectiveness of the method, I claim that Wesley's view of spiritual growth was therapeutic and transformative as measured by contemporary clinical standards. Wesley's developmental model involved a series of spiritual phases each characterized by techniques and meditations (ritual mourning, the practice of the presence, introspection) that culminated in sanctification, a cognitive-emotional transformation marked by the eradication of sinful temptations and the perfection of altruism. Couched in a theological idiom, the method helped individuals to work through conflicts created by the three main traumata of British middle class childhood: authoritarian parenting and unresolved bereavement grief. This paper argues that religious-cultural symbolism may promote transformations of archaic affect and neurotic conflict that progressively reshape these pre-reflective materials into complex existential insights and convictions.

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