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Violent Devotion and Depth Psychology

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The purpose of this article is to test how far the concepts of depth psychology can be used to further understanding of religiously motivated acts of violence that occurred in another age and another cultural environment. The particular behaviour studied is the violence exhibited in the lives of the Tamil Saiva saints of Southern India who lived in the sixth to eighth centuries CE. The relevant historical evidence is the account of their lives recorded in the hagiographical epic known as the Periya Purānam of Cēkkilār (fl. 1133-1150 CE). The term “depth psychology” is here taken to denote both the psycho-analytic theories of Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein and their successors, and the analytical psychology of the Jungian school. It will be shown that in spite of the methodological difficulties, psychological concepts drawn from these sources can be used to throw light on the religiously motivated behaviour here considered.

Affiliations: 1: Tamilnadu Theological Seminary Madurai India, Email:


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