University of Oulu

Hyrkäs, E.-R. (2023). Sin embodied: Priest-psychiatrist Asser Stenbäck and the psychosomatic approach to human problems. History of the Human Sciences, 36(1), 31–55.

Sin embodied : priest-psychiatrist Asser Stenbäck and the psychosomatic approach to human problems

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Author: Hyrkäs, Eve-Riina1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Humanities, History of Sciences and Ideas Unit, PO Box 8000, FI-90014, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: SAGE Publications, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-09-05


Combining theological and medical perspectives is indispensable for the historical study of the interconnections between mind, body, and soul. This article explores these relations through the history of Finnish psychosomatic medicine, and uses published and archival materials to examine the intellectual biography of the Finland-Swedish theologian turned psychiatrist Asser Stenbäck (1913–2006). Stenbäck’s career, which evolved from priesthood to psychiatry and politics, reveals a great deal about the tensions between religion and medicine, the spiritual and scientific groups that impinged upon psychosomatic medicine, and ideas on how health and Christian morality were interconnected. The biographical approach is adopted to unearth the values encoded in medical concepts, and through this, to point towards another, underexplored dimension of the health–religion relationship. In addition to their emotional aspect, religious doctrines are intended to organise life and give it meaning. Stenbäck’s ideas tied these experiential and normative spheres together by defending an irrationalist substratum of the world in the secular age of medicine. His work illustrates how the inner experience of faith can become both medically and politically purposive. It is worth combining these perspectives in historical research as well in order to better understand how the theological, medical, and political worlds are in dialogue when it comes to human problems.

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Series: History of the human sciences
ISSN: 0952-6951
ISSN-E: 1461-720X
ISSN-L: 0952-6951
Volume: 36
Issue: 1
Pages: 31 - 55
DOI: 10.1177/09526951221101450
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Copyright information: Hyrkäs, Eve-Riina, Sin Embodied: Priest-Psychiatrist Asser Stenbäck and the Psychosomatic Approach to Human Problems, History of the Human Sciences Copyright © [2022] (Sage). DOI: [10.1177/09526951221101450].