Sunday, September 23, 2007

I got an A in his Freud class

Three recent articles on Freud by a former professor:

1. On Freud and his daughter: "Freud's authority with Anna was absolute; he had established it early in her life, in part by psychoanalyzing her himself. Looking back on the psychoanalysis, Anna said that her father never permitted her to indulge in halfway measures. He compelled her to offer the whole truth about everything, including her erotic life. It seems that she shared with him accounts of her sexual fantasies and of her initial forays into masturbation, and that Freud took it all in with characteristic equanimity. Anna emerged from the analysis grateful to her father and more committed to him than ever."

2. On Freud's late-life take on religion: "Judaism’s distinction as a faith, he says, comes from its commitment to belief in an invisible God, and from this commitment, many consequential things follow. Freud argues that taking God into the mind enriches the individual immeasurably. The ability to believe in an internal, invisible God vastly improves people’s capacity for abstraction. “The prohibition against making an image of God — the compulsion to worship a God whom one cannot see,” he says, meant that in Judaism “a sensory perception was given second place to what may be called an abstract idea — a triumph of intellectuality over sensuality.”

"If people can worship what is not there, they can also reflect on what is not there, or on what is presented to them in symbolic and not immediate terms. So the mental labor of monotheism prepared the Jews — as it would eventually prepare others in the West — to achieve distinction in law, in mathematics, in science and in literary art. It gave them an advantage in all activities that involved making an abstract model of experience, in words or numbers or lines, and working with the abstraction to achieve control over nature or to bring humane order to life. Freud calls this internalizing process an “advance in intellectuality,” and he credits it directly to religion."

3. On Freud as anti-authoritarian authoritarian: "Freud still manifests himself to us as a grand patriarch. Collectively we have thought about him as the father, as the one who is supposed to know. We have hoped he’d confer the truth — make us whole and happy. Of course, he cannot. But he has been different from all the other aspiring masters in that he has taught nothing so insistently as the need to dissolve our illusions about masters, and to be responsive to more moderate, subtle and humane sources of authority."

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