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Top: Jewish Mind Control: Freudianism: Oxford Study on Freud's Jewishness

The Phantom of Freud's Jewishness

Few people, if any, are apathetic about the contribution to science made by Sigmund Freud. After Darwin had shaken Man's self-esteem by proposing a theory demonstrating human kinship with other animals, Freud shattered it still further by asserting that Man was far less a master in his own mental house than he had always supposed.

While Freud's ideas and terminology have rapidly pervaded the whole of Western society, there are still arguments about the truth of his ideas. On the one hand, Freud's teachings are carried by a devoutly loyal movement of psychoanalysts whose uncompromising approach to his original theories and sharp emotional defences to all attacks against Freud, strongly resemble religious zealotry. Of this attitude, Hans Eysnsenk wrote in Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire, "It seems to me to partake more of a religious conversion than of a scientific persuasion, to be based on faith and belief rather than fact and experiment, and to rely on suggestion and propoganda rather than proof and verification."

Yet, in other camps Freud's theories are regarded as absurd conjecture, having no scientific foundation whatsoever. Those who argue against Freud usually choose to object either on moral or logical grounds. Assertions such as the one found in the The Taboo of Virginity, describing the 'subconscious' wish on the part of a newly married woman to castrate her husband so as to retain his manhood, have been met with moral reprehension. After a long study of Freud's analysis and the progress of his patients, Fisher and Greenberg conclude that: "Freud never presented any data, in statistical or case-study form, that demonstrated that his treatment was of benefit to a significant number of the patients he himself saw." (ref ) In the words of Sir Peter Medawar, winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, "Freud's theories will remain forever one of the saddest and strangest of all landmarks in the history of twentieth century thought."

Feminists are among Freud's strongest critics. Freud denied women any intrinsic identity within his theoretical framework. In his history of childhood development he describes how a young boy has an innate desire to lie with his mother, but feels threatened in the execution of these desires by the father, who seems to have prior rights to the mother. The boy's fear makes him give up and 'repress' all these unseemly desires, which live on as the famous Oedipus Complex in the subconscious, promoting all sorts of terrible neurotic symptoms in later life. This Oedipus complex assumes the central role in Freudian speculations.

Yet, in Freud's female version of the Oedipus Complex, a little girl's discovery of her lack of male qualities leads her to believe that she is an inferior being. She becomes disillusioned with her mother, whom she blames for her condition. This turns her toward her father as a love-object, and she desires to bear his child. The resulting child, Freud supposes, will compensate the girl for her lack of male organs. This stage of emotional development is brought to a conclusion by the girl's growing perception of other men as potential husbands who will enable her to have a

baby, and thus overcome her continued sense of being an inferior kind of human being. Thus, a woman to Freud is totally dependent on a male for fulfillment and development.

Also of interest is the secondary role played by the mother in both the male and female version of the Oedipus complex. In both children it is the father, either as an object of fear in the male, or as an object of envy and jealousy in the female, who plays the fundamental role in the development of the Oedipus complex.

Since so many groups, both intellectually and morally oriented, find so much to contend with in Freud's theories, it seems only fair to psycho-analyse the first psychoanalyst. Freud's adoption of his world view, and the fervour with which he defended it, must have been, as they say, in character. Freud himself acknowledges that the events of his life had a direct bearing on the foundation of psychoanalysis, stating, " ...the story of my life and the history of psychoanalysis, they are intimately interwoven" (ref SE 20:71). Can we identify any motivations within Freud's personality which might have inspired some of his theories?

W.W. Meissner, Jesuit and psychoanalyst, writes, "It seems clear that Freud's religious views, perhaps reflect underlying and unresolved ambivalences and conflicts stemming from the earliest psychic strata. Behind the Freudian argument about religion stands Freud the man, and behind Freud the man, with his prejudices, beliefs, and convictions, lurks the shadow of Freud the child."

In the following lines we will assert that Freud's on-going struggle to reconcile his Jewish origins and his place in the Jewish faith served in no small measure to inspire many of his theories. Freud seems to have employed a dual ethic of Jewish affiliation of almost schizophrenic proportions.

Freud's complex relationship with his heritage and father

Freud proclaimed his militant atheism

On the one hand, Freud advertised his atheism at every possible opportunity. He had taken some pride in his claim that psychoanalysis had made the most recent contribution to the critique of the religious world view. He was no Marxist, but he agreed with the young Marx that "criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism" (ref ).

Freud seemed to feel, perhaps with some justification, that religion was the only serious rival to science. He described religion as a real threat to science because it was a "prodigious power disposing over mankind's strongest emotions". He was quick to recognise that they fought over the same material: "Of the three powers (art, philosophy, and religion) that may contest the soil of science, religion alone is the serious enemy." (ref )

His desire to be recognised as an atheist seems to have governed Freud's entire adult life. While still a student, he had come across an unusual man, an ex-priest who respected Darwin while he retained his belief in G-d. Freud toyed with the temptations of theism under Franz Brentano's influence, but in the end his encounter with Brentano's powerful mind was used to test the strength of his non-belief, to his entire satisfaction. Freud protested that he would sell his atheism at a high price: "I have no intention of surrendering so quickly and so completely".

In October 1927 he wrote to Pastor Pfister of his "absolutely negative attitude toward religion, in every form and dilution." During the rise of Nazism, a story went out that the Jews of Berlin had paraded through the streets carrying banners with the device: "Throw us out!" Believing it had happened, Freud gave vent to his indignation by saying to Zweig in a letter that, "such undignified behaviour was typical of the Jewish character and my only consolation is that these people are half German." (ref )

At the funeral of a family friend he wrote that the eulogizing Rabbi "spoke with the powerful voice of the fanatic, with the ardour of the savage, merciless Jew." (ref )

Finally, one year before his death he wrote in a letter to Charles Singer, "Neither in my private life nor in my writings have I ever made a secret of being an out-and-out unbeliever".

Freud's atheism was repeatedly described by his contemporary and rival psychoanalysts, Jung, Adler, Buber, Fromm et al, as "aggressive atheism". Rather than being content to believe religion was an adult extension of the fears and complexes all children develop while growing up, he constantly had to reiterate his opposition to it. 'Methinks the atheist protesteth too much': Freud's aggression was clearly fighting an enemy that he did not yet feel he had defeated.

Jewish affirmation

On the other hand, Freud went to great lengths to emphasize his pride in being Jewish. In his introduction to the Hebrew translation of Totem and Taboo he writes:

"No reader of the Hebrew version of this book will find it easy to put himself into the emotional position of an author who is ignorant of the language of holy writ, who is completely estranged from the religion of his fathers, as well as from every other religion, and who cannot take a share in nationalist ideas, but who has yet never repudiated his people, who feels that he is, in his essential nature, a Jew, and who has no desire to alter that nature. If the question were put to him: 'Since you have abandoned all these common characteristics of your countrymen, what is there left to you that is Jewish?' He would reply: 'A very great deal, and probably its essence.' He could not now express that essence clearly in words: But someday, no doubt, it will become accessible to the scientific mind."

In an address to the Bnei Brith Society, Freud, speaking as if he were a Jewish mystic, defines Judaism as being "not the faith, not even the national pride... but many dark emotional powers, all the stronger the less they could be expressed in words, as well as the clear consciousness of an inner identity." Is it not amazing that this most eloquent of men could find no words to express his Jewishness?

In a letter to his fiancee Freud writes that "something of the core, of the essence of this meaningful and life-affirming Judaism will not be absent from our home." And in 1922 he mused to Ferenczi about, "strange secret longings" rising up within him, "perhaps from the heritage of my ancestors".

How is it possible to reconcile Freud the progressive, enlightened Jewish atheist who has shed all the backward characteristics of his father's Judaism, with Freud the affirmed and proud Jew? It is my belief that they never were reconciled. And it is the dynamics of this inner tension, Freud's willingness yet inability to discard his Judaism, that served as the motivation for some of the major elements of psychoanalysis.

Freud was the victim of a severe complex. A complex very different to the one he called Oedipus, but nevertheless rooted in the same cause, the anxiety he felt toward his father. Very much a religious Jew despite some waning observance (Freud points out that his father studied Talmud almost daily), Freud's father served as the symbol of the Judaism that the he himself should have been practicing. Himself a product of the German-Jewish enlightenment and who had experienced first hand the ambivalence felt by young Jewish intellectuals to their ancestral faith, Kafka is in a unique position to comment on the inner workings of Freud's theories. After being exposed to them for the first time he wrote to Max Brod:

"What appeals to me... is the observation that the father complex from which more than one Jew draws his spiritual nourishment relates not to the innocent father but to the father's Judaism. What most of those who began to write in German wanted was to break with Judaism, generally with the vague approval of their fathers. That is what they wanted, but their hind legs were bogged down in their father's Judaism, and their front legs could find no ground. The resulting despair was their inspiration."

In fact, Freud himself, might have showered the same reproach on his father that Kafka did on his father, Herman. His father was by no means the innocent one the Greek Oed ipus was destined to kill. On the contrary, he was doubly guilty: guilty of being too much of what he was and not being sufficiently what he was; of remaining too much of a Jew to break with tradition as well as cause his son to look down upon him since his children saw nothing but an empty shell of ritual, but not enough of a Jew to hand down a possibility of authentic self-contained and self-justifying existence.

Kafka writes:

"It would have been thinkable... that we might both have found each other in Judaism or that we might have begun from there in harmony. But what sort of Judaism was it that I got from you?... It was also impossible to make a child, over acutely observant from sheer nervousness, understand that the few flimsy gestures you performed in the name of Judaism, and with an indifference in keeping with their flimsiness, could have any higher meaning. For you they had meaning as little souvenirs of earlier times, and that is why you wanted to pass them on to me. But since they no longer had any intrinsic value, even for you, you could do this only through persuasion or threat. On the one hand, this could not be successful, and on the other, it had to make you angry with me on account of my apparent obstinacy."

Thus, due to the Herman Kakfa's of the world who have brought little authentic Judaism with them from the ghetto yet demand of their children a vague fidelity to Judaism, while at the same time consenting vaguely to break with tradition, the sons, whatever they may do, are unhappy animals, doomed to live between two worlds and to be taken in by their own duplicity.

Freud, like many of his enlightened contemporaries, wished to divorce himself once and for all of his outdated heritage which hindered his progress and acceptance in Gentile eyes. But notwithstanding his effort, the ghost of his father's Judaism tormented him and he could never completely rid himself of it. Thus, his theory embodies the ambivalence felt by a child to his ever-pursuing fatherly image.

In the words of John Morris Cuddihy: "Freud's life work was to make sense out of the trauma experienced by Jewish intellectuals in the process of emancipation who found themselves increasingly involved in Gentile society, in political, economic, and cultural spheres while remaining excluded from the social sphere" Freudianism, like Marxism and Reform Judaism, a post-emancipation ideology, was designed to transform the "normative social conflicts" of the awkward, modernizing, east-European Jew into "cognitive scientific problems." Psycho-analysis was concerned to show that behind the civility required by the rules of Gentile society, all men, like the uncouth upstart Jew, were pariahs since all were motivated by the untamed forces of the Id.

Freud's interests in the discontents of civility preceded his concern with civilisation and its discontents. Numerous instances express Freud's disgust for his primitive ancestry. In The Interpretation of Dreams he recounts an early dream of his father handing his children a book for them to destroy. Marthe Robert says of this incident that there must be a "serious moral trauma" involved, for at the age of forty Freud still could not bring himself to disclose the meaning of the dream which recalled the scene. She suggests that the scene might indicate to Freud a pseudo-assimilated, still barbarous father, one who truly reveres only the Book of Books.

Likewise, Freud's continued fascination with, and recurrent dreams of Rome, seem to signify his inner struggle to renounce Judaism. He desires to embrace Rome but cannot. He thinks of what Rome has done to his people and feels alienated. Yet Rome represents the cradle of western culture, the legitimacy he craves. He pursued this legitimacy throughout his life.

When Karl Abraham expressed reservations about the sincerity of the new convert to psychoanalysis, C.G. Jung, Freud begged Abraham to be patient since, 'only his appearance has saved psychoanalysis from becoming a Jewish national concern'. It was the gentiles who would rescue them from their isolation and guarantee the movement.

Another revealing tale is the "hat in the gutter" episode. After his father's failure to respond to an anti-Semite who had knocked off his hat, Freud relates how this struck me as unheroic conduct on the part of the big, strong man who was holding the little boy by the hand. I contrasted this situation with another which fitted my feelings better; the scene in which Hannibal's father, Hamilcar Barca, made his boy swear before the household altar to take vengeance on the Romans. Ever since that time Hannibal has had a place in my fantasies." Freud's fantasies allowed him to escape from his father whom he viewed as a mediocrity who did nothing to overcome the confinement of his existence within the intolerable limits of inferior birth.

Here lies the reason behind Freud's not attributing women with an intrinsic identity. Freud's model of women is essentially a caricature of a castrated man and, as such, closely resembles one of the caricatures of the exilic Jew which both the Gentile and, to a certain crucial extent, the enlightened Jews himself internalised. It is a parody of a man who is castrated politically, socially, and sexually. It involves at once a denial and a projection of the unacceptable feelings of envy for the phallic qualities of the Gentile. A deep feeling of shame for their lack and, as an important adjunct, the opportunity of channeling a certain amount of anti-Semitic aggression toward a weaker target.

Note Freud's own insight into his own work in a letter to Pastor Pfister, "Why did none of the devout create psychoanalysis? Why did one have to wait for a completely G-dless Jew?" As Yale Historian Peter Gay asserts, "It was as a particular kind of atheist, a Jewish atheist, that Freud was enabled to make his momentous discoveries" No other atheist would have cause to experience such immense inner tension over renouncing his heritage.

Thus Freud's work does not develop along a straight line, but rather in an enormous circle around one and the same motif which is constantly reconsidered. Beginning with the Interpretation of Dreams where the real person of Jacob Freud scarcely figures in the Oedipan Drama inspired by his recent death but conceived as the guilty father, the constitutive factor of the human psyche at all times and places, the circle closes in Moses and Monotheism with Freud desperately attempting to put to rest the phantom that has pursued him his entire life - the Jewish faith. In Moses and Monotheism, his last published work, Freud controversially suggests that Moses was not in fact a Jew, but an Egyptian prince who rescued the Jews from Egypt and whom they subsequently killed. Although Moses and Monotheism has been rejected as the least convincing of all his works with no factual basis whatever, Freud was obsessed with its publication. "Moses will not let go of my imagination", he writes to Zweig. "I picture myself reading it aloud to you when you come to Vienna, despite my defective speech" In yet another comment about the book he cries, "Moses torments me like an unlaid ghost".

But why publish a book with no factual basis that would merely offend the Jews at a time when Nazi persecution had engulfed all of Germany and Austria? In his final days, Freud was still trying to do what for every Jew throughout the ages has proven an impossible feat: to quell the irrepressible Jewish spirit that yearns to break free and find expression in the life of a Jew.



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