Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


(1916-1987) Director of the Interdisciplinary Studies Program and Emeritus Henry March Pfeiffer Professor of Research and Education in Psychiatry at the Menninger Foundation. President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (1974-1975); recipient of the William C. Bier award (1986) by Division 36 of the American Psychological Association for outstanding and sustained scholarly study of the psychology of religion.

Pruyser was a prominent clinician, active in encouraging the valid role of mature, nonanthropomorphic religion in psychological health. Psychoanalytic in orientation, he opposed the positivistic underpinnings that dominate the contemporary empirical psychology of religion. Influenced by object relations theory, he developed an analysis of religion based upon illusion that rescued it from the pejorative connotations it had acquired in Freudian theory. Religion, conceived as shared illusion, occupies a world between internal fantasy and external reality. Shared illusion is involved not only in religion but also in play, creativity, and art. Illusion is a product of a tutored imagination, fundamental to culture. As a major domain for the expression of this imagination, religion is fated to continue to play a dominant role in culture.

Ralph W. Hood, Jr .


P. W. Pruyser, A Dynamic Psychology of Religion (New York: Harper, 1968)

P. W. Pruyser, Between Belief and Unbelief (New York: Harper, 1974)

P. W. Pruyser, The Minister as Diagnostician (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976)

P. W. Pruyser, The Play of the Imagination (New York: International Universities Press, 1983)

P. W. Pruyser, "The Tutored Imagination in Religion," in Changing Views of the Human Condition (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1987).

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500