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A Christian doctor diagnoses the spiritual diseases of our time, and writes out a prescription. Tournier is a Genevan psychologist-general practitioner, a prolific author of popular religious books, and a very lively octogenarian. He has long promoted a kind of therapy which he calls ""the medicine of the person,"" a blend of psychiatry, religion, and traditional medical procedures. Here he argues that the frightening growth of violence, personal and collective, in the modern period ultimately arises out of suicidal Faustian ambitions, i.e., the Western world has turned away from God and laid claim to a power and autonomy which are properly divine. The bloody holocausts of the 20th century (and the threat of a terminal nuclear blast), the ravaging of nature, the obsessive quest for wealth, the escalating aggression of everyday urban life--Tournier sees all this as the inevitable consequence of overstepping the biblical limits of human self-determination. The idea is at least as old as The City of God, but Tournier presents it with clarity, eloquence, and some telling examples. He is particularly adept at analyzing the (usually unconscious) ways that doctors dominate their patients, and he unsparingly cites his own behavior to prove the point. The whole book, in fact, has a rare and refreshing candor. Its weakest point--a crucial one--comes when Tournier asserts that violence is good or bad depending on whether one has recourse to it from benevolent or selfish motives. But the most brutal terrorists are often among the most selfless of men, and so this criterion (Toumier has Jesus' use of power in mind) just won't do. Otherwise, much of what the good doctor has to say makes a good deal of sense, and even unbelieving patients may come away convinced.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1978
Publisher: Harper & Row