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Scholarly Interest Report
William B. Parsons
Professor of Religion
  • B.A. (1979) Brandeis University
  • M. Div. (1982) Yale University
  • Ph.D. (1993) University of Chicago
Primary Department
   Department of Religion
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Department Affiliations
  • Asian Studies
    Research Areas
     Religion and the Social Sciences; Mysticism
    Mourning Religion
     Edited book, in conjunction with Professors diane Jonte-Pace and Susan Henking
    From Milan to Ostia: psychology, Eroticism and Mysticism in Augustine's Confessions
     Book length manuscript
    mourning religion
     this is an edited book which looks at mourning from a psychosocial perspective and which addresses how mourning is a central driving force behind the creation and development of university-based departments of religion
    From Milan to Ostia: psychology, mysticism and eroticism in Augustine's Confessions
     This is a book consisting of 6 chapters (drafts of 2 chapters completed). Its method centers on revisionist psychoanalytic models which are dialogical in nature, in this case with studies championing theological, philosophical, historical, and rhetorical perspectives on Augustine. The book attempts to revise a century of psychoanalytical theorizing of Augustine by centering the religious journey catalogued in the Confessions around the visions at Milan and Ostia, offering new dialogical, psychoanalytic theories for their interpretation, and then revising extant psychoanalytic studies on the basis of this new understanding.
    Mourning Religion
     This is a proposed edited volume currently under peer review for an advanced contract. It argues that the study of religion in the academy, in both secular and religiously affiliated universities, represents a socially legitimated, institutionalized forum for the mourning of religion in contemporary culture. Contributors to the volume apply psychoanalytic theories of loss, mourning, and the inability to mourn to the dramatic changes in traditional religious practices and institutions that have marked modernity. They find the social and psychological work of mourning evident in the study of religion in three arenas. First, mourning is evident in the formation of the theories and methods comprising religious studies as a discipline. Second, the work of mourning is visible in the creative analysis of religious topics like mysticism and ethics in the academic setting. Third, contemporary religious practice, belief, and discourse in the greater cultural arena illustrate the traces of both mourning - in film, collective narratives, and AIDS memorials - and the "inability to mourn" ? in, for example, the clergy sex abuse scandals.
    Teaching Areas
     religion and the social sciences, psychology of religion, mysticism, introduction to religion
    Selected Publications

    William B. Parsons "Mourning and Method in Psychoanalytic Studies of Indian Religions."  (2008) : pp. 63-80.

     Refereed articles

    William B. Parsons ""Big Dreams, Religion, and the Transformational"." Pastoral Psychology, 66: 691-697.


    Kaplan, G.; Parsons, W.B. "Framing Freud on Religion." 


    Parsons, W.B. "Of Chariots, Navels, and Winged Steeds: The Dialogue between Psychoanalysis and Buddhism." 


    Parsons, W.B. "On Mapping Religion and Psychology: Psychology as Religion and Modern Spirituality." 


    Parsons, W.B.; Jonte-Pace, D.; Henking, S. "Mourning Religion: A Response." 


    Parsons, W.B.; Kripal J. "Psychology and Religion at Rice: A Brief History." 


    Psychoanalysis meets Buddhism: The Development of a Dialogue


    William B. Parsons "Psychologia Perennis and the Academic Study of Mysticism." Mourning Religion (2008) : pp. 97-123.


    William B. Parsons "psychoanalytic spirituality." The Annual of Psychoanalysis, 35 (2007) : 83-97.


    William B. Parsons "Nature Mysticism." The New SCM Dictionary of Christian SpiritualityIn Press


    william b. parsons "psychoanalysis and mysticism: the case of st. augustine." In Press


    Parsons, W. "Let Him Rejoice in the Roseate Light! Teaching Psychoanalysis and Mysticism." Texts and Translations: Teaching Freud in Religious Studies (2003) : 79-99.In Press


    Parsons, W. "Psychoanalysis and Mysticism: The Case of St. Augustine." Mysticism: A Variety of Psychological Perspectives (2003) Submitted


    Parsons, W. "Psychologia Perennis: Historical Developments in Unchurched Mysticism." The Unknown Remembered Gate: Religious Experience and Hermeneutical Reflection (2003) : 133-169.In Press


    Parsons, William B. "Freud and Augustine in Dialogue. Charlottesville and London. University of Virginia Press." 


    William B. Parsons and Diane Jonte-Pace "Religion and Psychology: MApping the Terrain." : 352.


    william b. parsons "the enigma of the oceanic feeling: revisioning the psychoanalytic theory of mysticism." : 252.


    william b. parsons, diane jonte-pace, editors "mapping religion and psychological studies: contemporary dialogues, future prospects." 


    William B. Parsons "The Enigma of the Oceanic Feeling: Revisioning the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism." : 237.


    William B. Parsons and Diane Jonte-Pace "Mapping Religion and Psychological Studies: Contemporary Dialogues, Future Prospects." : 375.

     Editor of books

    William B. Parsons "Social Religion." 


    Parsons, William B. "Teaching Mysticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011." 


    Kaplan, Gregory;Parsons, W.B. eds. "Disciplining Freud on Religion." 


    William B. Parsons, Diane Jonte-Pace, Susan E. Henking, eds "Mourning Religion."  (2008)

     Book chapters

    William B. Parsons ""Augustine's Analysts: Reflections on the psychological reception history of the Confessions.." A New History of African Christian Thought: 95-106.


    Framing Social Religion "Social Religion." : xv-xxiii.


    William B. Parsons "Augustine'e Analysts: Reflections on the psychological reception history of the Confessions." A New History of African Thought: 95-106.


    William B. Parsons "The Psychology of Religion: An Overview." Social Religion: 3-22.


    William. B. Parsons "“Social Religion: Method and the Social Scientific Study of Religion.”." Jeff Kripal, ed., Religion: Sources, Perspectives, and Methodologies. New York: Macmillan (2015) : 3-19.


    Augustine and Psychology, ed. by S. Dixon, J. Doody, Lanham, MD.: Rowman Littlefield/Lexington Books,
     pp. 165-184.


    J.Garb and P. Wexler, eds.  After Spirituality. New York: Peter Lang, pp. 173-186.


    Parsons, William B. "“Mysticism, Spirituality and the Undergraduate: Reflections on the Use of Psychosocial Theory.” In William B. Parsons, ed., Teaching Mysticism. New York: Oxford University Press." 

     Book reviews

    William B. Parsons "Review, Aboriginal Populations of the Mind." Journal of Religion, 87:3 (July 2007) : 490-91.


    William B. Parsons "Review of Lives of Spirit: Precursors and Dilemmas of a Secular Western Mysticism." Journal of ReligionIn Press


    william b. parsons "revisioning transpersonal theory: A participatory vision of human spirituality." journal of religion, 83:4 (2003) : 692-3.

     Dictionary or Encyclopedia Entries

    William B. Parsons "The Oceanic Feeling." Brill Vocabulary for the Study of Religion (2015) : 561-62.


    Parsons, William B. "Foreword." Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Psychological Biography


    william b. parsons "nature mysticism." Submitted


    William B. Parsons "Let Him Rejoise in the Roseate Light! Teaching Psychoanalysis and Mysticism." Texts and Translations: Teaching Freud in Religious Studies, edited by Diane Jonte-Pace (New York: Oxford University Press) (in press)


    William B. Parsons "Psychoanalysis and Mysticism: The Case of St. Augustine." The Psychology of the Varieties of Mystical Experience (tentative title), edited by J. Belzen and A. Geels (accepted for publication)


    William B. Parsons "Psychosocial Persepctives on the Millennium." Religiouis Studies Review (July 2000) : 239-45.


    William B. Parsons "Themes and Debates in the Psychology-Comparativist Dialogue." Religion and Psychology: Mapping the Terrain (oct. 2000) : 229-53.


    William B. Parsons and Diane Jonte-Pace "Mapping Religion and Psychological Studies." Religion and Psychology: Mapping the Terrain (oct. 2000) : 1-10.


    Willima B. Parsons "Freud;s encounter with Hinduism: An Historical and Textual Overview."  (1999) : 41-80.


    william b. parsons "beyond the oceanic feeling: teaching the psychoanalytic theory of mysticism."  (accepted, forthcoming, 2000)


    william b. parsons "psychosocial perspectives on the millenium." religious studies review (accepted, forthcoming 2000)


    william b. parsons "the perennial psychology: refelctions on developments in unchurched mysticism."  (accepted, in press, forthcoming 2000)


    william b. parsons, diane jonte-pace "mapping religion and psychological studies."  (accepted, fortcoming, 2000)


    William B. Parsons "Beyond the Oceanic Feeling: Teaching the Psychoanalytic Theory of Mysticism."  (pending)


    William B. Parsons "Freud's Encounter with Hinduism: An Historical-Textual Overview."  (1998) : 40-81.


    William B. Parsons "The Oceanic Feeling Revisited." Journal of Religion, vol. 78, no. 4 (1998) : 501-523.

     Conference Paper

    ""Framing Being SBNR"." (11/17)


    ""Mysticism in Translation: Psychologivcal advances, Cautionary Tales"." (07/17)


    "“Big Dreams. Religion, and the Transformational.” American Academy of 

    Religion Annual Conference. San Antonio, Tx.." (11/16)


    "“Depth Psycholoyg and the Mystical.” American Academy of 

    Religion Annual Conference. San Antonio, Tx.." (11/16)

     Invited Papers

    "Psychoanalysis, Buddhism and Spirituality: Observations on the More from within the Psychology and Religion Movement." Breuninger Foundation, Ontario, Canada. (08/08)


    "Psychoanalysis and Buddhism." University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands. (07/07)


    co-convener.  "the return of the repressed: working through freud in religious studies." rice university.

     Invited Talks

    "Time and Eternity in Freud's Theory of Mysticism. Rockwell Symposium, Rice University.." (11/2013)


    "Between the Clinic and the Academy: Psychology and the Creation of Modern Spirituality." (10/10)


    "Contours of an Emerging Psychoanalytic Spirituality." (04/10)


    "Of Chariots, Navels and Winged Steeds." (02/10)


    "Psychology and Unchurched Spirituality." University of Chicago Divinity School, Chicago IL. (10/2007)


    "Sigmund Freud and Culture." Rice University Alumni College, Rice University. (04/04)


    "Psychology, Mysticism, and Augustine's Confessions." UT Medical Center at Galveston, Texas (UTMB), Galveston, TX. (10/02)

     Keynote Speaker

    "Freud and Jung on Religion: Historical Consequences for the Clinical Setting." (8/10)


    "Religion and Psychology: Maps for a Constructive Dialogue." (8/10)


    "Critical Perspectives on Religion and Psychology: Mapping the Terrain (respondent)." New Works in Religion and Psychology, GTU (University of California at Berkeley), Berkeley, California. (05/01)


    "Mysticism, Eros and Rhetoric in Augustine's Confesssions: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry." Rockwell Colloquium Series: Psychology and Mysticism in the World's Religious Traditions, Rice Univerrsity, Houston, Tx. (03/01)


    "Psychoanalysis and Mysticism: East and West." Houston/Galveston Psychoanalytic Institute, Houston, Tx. (02/01)


    "Psychoanalysis and Mysticism: The Case of St. Augustine." The Psychology of Mysticism, University of Lund, Lund, Sweden. (10/01 (declined due to 9/11 terrorist attack))


    "milner and loewald on mysticism: A Response." American Academy of Religion, Nashville, TN. (2000)


    "psychology and eastern religions." american psychoanalytic association, chicago. (2000)


    "from psychology "of" to psychology "as" religion: reflections on mysticism and contemporary society." perspectives on psychology and soul in conversation, santa clara university, santa clara, california. (11/99)


    "the perennial psychology: reflections on developments in unchurched mysticism." method as path: the third annual conference in comparative studies, new york university. (4/99)


    "Nature Mysticism and the Spiritual but not Religious Movement." (11/14)


    "On Mourning Religion: A Response." American Academy of Religion, Chicago, Ill. (11/2008)

    Editorial Positions
     Associate Editor, International Series for the Psychology of Religion. Springer. (2015 - 2015)

     Editor, Religious Studies Review. Blackwell. (2009 - 2009)

     Editor, Religious Studies Review. Blackwell. (2010 - 2010)

     Associate Editor, International Series for the Psychology of Religion. Springer. (2013 - 2013)

     Editor, Religious Studies Review. Blackwell. (2011 - 2011)

     Editor, Religious Studies Review. council of societies for the study of religion. (2005 - 2005)

     Editor, Religious Studies Review. council of societies for the study of religion. (2004 - 2004)

    Supervised Theses & Dissertations
     Alexander Chaoul, PhD magical movement from the tibetan bon tradition: ancient religion and contemporary medical perspectives. (2005) (Thesis Committee Member)

     Nathan Carlin, Ph.D Reversers and Restorers of Religion. (2010) (Thesis Director)

     Lara Wik, B.A. anders breivik, civil religion, and narcissistic rage. (2013) (Thesis Director)

     Bethany Newell, B.A. BSatanic Mythology: Piercing together origins of Satanic Myth in a modern culture. (2013) (Thesis Director)

     Elliot Berger, Ph.D “Billy Graham: Anchored to the Rock in the Age of Anxiety”. (2017) (Thesis Director)

    Awards, Prizes, & Fellowships
     Scholar/Honor Athlete Favorite Professor Award, Rice University (03/13)

     George R. Brown Prize for Superior Teaching , Rice University (05/11)

     Distinguished Faculty Associate, Brown College, Rice University (05/10)

     Fellow, Institue for Advanced Studies (2008-2009)

     Outstanding Faculty Associate (Brown College), Rice University/Brown College (4/2008)

     Outstanding Teaching Award, Margaret Brown Root College, Rice University (04/07)

     Teaching Excellence in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Brown College (Spring 2006)

    Positions Held
     Area Editor, Relgiious Studies Review. (2004 - 2004)