Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Nathan CarlinEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_692

The Greek word Thanatos literally means “death.” Thanatos also can have metaphorical meanings, such as the personification of death (cf. Romans 5.14 and 1 Corinthians 15.26), as well as spiritual meanings, such as eternal death (cf. 2 Corinthians 7.10). Edward Tripp (1970) notes that in classical mythology, “Thanatos was born of Nyx (Night)” and that Thanatos “and his brother Hypnos (Sleep) lived together in Tartarus” (p. 555). He also notes that “Thanatos appears in Euripides’s Alcestis to carry off the heroine from her tomb. Heracles wrestles with him, however, and brings her back to life” (Tripp 1970, p. 555). Tripp also directs us to these passages in mythology: Iliad, 16.453–455, 16.672–673, 16.682–683; Theogony, 211–212 and 758–766. This article will focus on Thanatos as it relates to psychology and religion, focusing in particular on the thought of Sigmund Freud, Norman Brown, and Robert Dykstra.

Freud on Thanatos

In psychological circles, Thanatos always recalls Freud’s theory...

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McGovern Center for Humanities and EthicsUniversity of Texas Medical SchoolHoustonUSA