Psychological Knowledge in Brazilian Culture
- Marina MassimiMarina MassimiUniversidade de Sao Paulo, Instituto Estudos Avançados
There are several aspects of the history of psychological knowledge in Brazilian culture for the period between the 16th and 18th centuries, some of which highlight the process of the transmission and the reception of the European framework. Cultural history methods can be used, organizing the sources by literary genres. Sources analyzed can include philosophical treatises, letters, sermons, and allegorical novels. The Conimbricenses treatises (a set of books brought in the baggage by the missionaries of the Society of Jesus in Brazil) synthesize the philosophical psychology of the Aristotelian-Thomist and Augustinian framework and propose a systematic work of ordering psychic experiences in order to make them a constructive factor of the integral development of the person. The letters are the oldest written documents in Brazil, from the beginning of the 16th century; the quantitatively more consistent epistolary correspondence sent from colonial Brazil to Europe is that of the Jesuits, from their arrival in 1549, with the mission of evangelizing the indigenous people and assisting the colonists. The letters’ authors observed and described psychological experiences from their own experience and from the experience of the indigenous peoples, from the perspective of the knowledge at their disposal. Concepts, practices, and beliefs of the classical, medieval, and Western Renaissance tradition, aimed at changing the habits and mentality of individuals and social groups, were communicated to the Brazilian populations through sermons. All the dimensions of psychic dynamism proposed and acting in the genre of sacred oratory function in relation to the transcendent objects. The psyche was conceived as integrated to the totality of the personal dynamism: the psyche mediated between body and spirit, and this interrelation could be promoted by the preacher’s word. The sacred oratory became a veritable laboratory of the efficacy of the word to care for and heal the imbalances of the person’s psychic apparatus. The concept of human life as a pilgrimage is the plot of two important sources elaborated in colonial Brazil, inscribed in the genre of the allegorical novel História do Predestinado Peregrino e de seu irmão Precito written by Father Alexandre de Gusmão of Bahia and Compêndio narrativo do Peregrino de América(1728) written by Nuno Marques Pereira. Within the scope of the view of the homo viator, the function of the psychic dynamism was delineated and the psychological knowledge proposed by the two novels constructed. What is the relevance of this knowledge for the Brazilian culture of the present? The collective memory of the constituent cultural subjects of Brazilian society is the great cradle transmitting the psychological knowledge elaborated, received, and appropriated. Psychic dynamism plays a fundamental role, configuring a certain way of being, where differences, like threads in the loom, are composed, coupled, and intertwined.