Crucified with Christ

Meditations on the Passion, Mystical Death, and the Medieval Invention of Psychotherapy

By Dan Merkur

Subjects: Psychology
Paperback : 9780791471067, 166 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791471050, 166 pages, July 2007

Table of contents

1. Turned Without and Within
2. Reforming in Faith and Feeling
3. Meditation on the Passion
4. Mystical Death
5. The Therapeutic Action of Crucifixion with Christ
6. The Death of Adam

Delineates how medieval meditation on the passion of Christ was intended to transform personality—a practice with affinity for the goals of modern psychotherapy.


Crucified with Christ offers a fascinating study of the psychoanalytic character of medieval meditation. Most meditation practitioners imagined themselves in the place of an eyewitness to the passion; however, some, including Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, and Bonaventure, introduced meditation from the perspective of Jesus. They felt the imagined crucifixion, passion, and death as experiences of their own and understood them in Pauline terms as "crucifixions with Christ." As knowledge of mystical death experiences accumulated over the centuries, it was noted that repeated mystical unions with Christ in his death could create personality change, imparting the sweetness of Jesus' personality to the meditators.

Author Dan Merkur illustrates that in both its details and its goal, the meditative process meets contemporary psychoanalytic criteria for psychotherapeutic change. The medieval practice of meditation, Merkur writes, is comprehensible as guided imagery therapy that takes the meditator from fear of death to forgiveness of persecutors—in psychoanalytic terms, dissolving resistance through a capacity for concern and relationality.

Dan Merkur is a psychoanalyst in private practice and a research reader in the study of religion at the University of Toronto. He is the author of many books, including Unconscious Wisdom: A Superego Function in Dreams, Conscience, and Inspiration, also published by SUNY Press.


"…presents a significant and original reading of an impressive array of mystical theologians through a modern psychoanalytic lens. Persons interested in psychological and theological perspectives on human transformation may find that the book offers valuable material for interdisciplinary reflection." — Studies in Religion

"This stimulating book will make good reading for all interested in the psychoanalytic study of mysticism." — Philosophy of Religion

"This is a courageous text on a topic many would avoid as too controversial. There is urgent need to relate the classic religious literature of the West with the advances in psychology. It is to our cultural peril that we do not enter into a dialogue between these two areas of human experience. Dan Merkur has done us a great service. Surely he has not written a last word, but he has offered us an important word in this tentative beginning. We owe him a debt of gratitude." — Carla May Streeter, O.P., Aquinas Institute of Theology