Russell Shorto

Saints and Madmen

While researching my first book, about biblical scholarship on the historical Jesus, I met a New Testament scholar who was also a psychiatrist.  Her interest in the Bible, she told me, was in the so-called healing miracles that Jesus performs: curing blindness, lameness and so on.  Cultural psychiatry identifies certain conditions that are region-specific, based on the forces that individuals there have to endure.  This led me to my second book, which starts by examining the two paths taken by Freud and William James, with Freud defining “psyche” in such a way that it left out spiritual issues, while James insisted that “the varieties of religious experience” are fundamental to understanding the individual.  The psychological professions followed Freud for many years, but recently have tacked back toward James.  The book includes case studies of patients and practitioners.

“Shorto considers contemporary psychiatric cases to show how many psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychotherapists have opened themselves to spiritual and religious dimensions. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“Russell Shorto’s Saints and Madmen is a book for which many of us have waited for a great many years…The scope is awesome and the vividness of its stories breathtaking” Maurice Friedman, PhD, author of Religion and Psychology

“[A] cogent, absorbing book…. A vivid account of psychiatry’s recent interest in ‘nonrational’ cognitive experience.” — Kirkus Reviews


About the Author

  I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. I have three children (Anna, Eva and Anthony) and three step-children (Reinier, Hector and Benjamin).  I write books of narrative history; I believe history is most meaningful to us when it manifests itself through individuals in conflict. My books have been published in fourteen languages and have won numerous awards.  I am senior scholar at the New Netherland Institute and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine. My interests include the past, the present and the future, not necessarily in that order.  

photo by Keke Keukelaar