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Sigmund Freud was born to Jewish parents in the heavily Roman Catholic town of Freiburg, Moravia. Throughout his life, Freud endeavored to understand religion and spirituality and wrote several books devoted to the subject, including Totem and Taboo (1913), The Future of an Illusion (1927), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), and Moses and Monotheism (1938). Religion, Freud believed, was an expression of underlying psychological neuroses and distress. At various points in his writings, he suggested that religion was an attempt to control the Oedipal complex, a means of giving structure to social groups, wish fulfillment, an infantile delusion, and an attempt to control the outside world. Freud’s Jewish Heritage: While he was very up front about his atheism and believed that religion was something to overcome, he was aware of the powerful influence of religion on identity. He acknowledged that his Jewish heritage as well as the antisemitism he frequently encountered had shaped his own personality. "My language is German. My culture, my attainments are German. I considered myself German intellectually, until I noticed the growth of anti-Semitic prejudice in Germany and German Austria. Since that time, I prefer to call myself a Jew," he wrote in 1925. Religion According to Freud: "Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires." --Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis ,1933. "Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis." --Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion , 1927 " Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. [...] If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man's evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity." –Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism , 1939 Freud’s Criticism of Religion: From Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921) "A religion, even if it calls itself a religion of love, must be hard and unloving to those who do not belong to it." From The Future of an Illusion (1927):

Sigmund Freud

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Sigmund Freud was born to Jewish parents in the heavily Roman Catholic town of Freiburg, Moravia. Throughout his life, Freud endeavored to understand religion and spirituality and wrote several books devoted to the subject, including Totem and Taboo (1913), The Future of an Illusion (1927), Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), and Moses and Monotheism(1938). Religion, Freud believed, was an expression of underlying psychological neuroses and distress. At various points in his writings, he suggested that religion was an attempt to control the Oedipal complex, a means of giving structure to social groups, wish fulfillment, an infantile delusion, and an attempt to control the outside world. Freuds Jewish Heritage:

While he was very up front about his atheism and believed that religion was something to overcome, he was aware of the powerful influence of religion on identity. He acknowledged that his Jewish heritage as well as the antisemitism he frequently encountered had shaped his own personality. "My language is German. My culture, my attainments are German. I considered myself German intellectually, until I noticed the growth of anti-Semitic prejudice in Germany and German Austria. Since that time, I prefer to call myself a Jew," he wrote in 1925. Religion According to Freud:

"Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires." --Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis,1933. "Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis." --Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion, 1927 "Religion is an attempt to get control over the sensory world, in which we are placed, by means of the wish-world, which we have developed inside us as a result of biological and psychological necessities. [...] If one attempts to assign to religion its place in man's evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through on his way from childhood to maturity." Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, 1939 Freuds Criticism of Religion:

From Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921)

"A religion, even if it calls itself a religion of love, must be hard and unloving to those who do not belong to it." From The Future of an Illusion (1927):

"Our knowledge of the historical worth of certain religious doctrines increases our respect for them, but does not invalidate our proposal that they should cease to be put forward as the reasons for the precepts of civilization. On the contrary! Those historical residues have helped us to view religious teachings, as it were, as neurotic relics, and we may now argue that the time has probably come, as it does in an analytic treatment, for replacing the effects of repression by the results of the rational operation of the intellect." From Civilization and Its Discontents (1930):

"The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. It is still more humiliating to discover how a large number of people living today, who cannot but see that this religion is not tenable, nevertheless try to defend it piece by piece in a series of pitiful rearguard actions."

"The different religions have never overlooked the part played by the sense of guilt in civilization. What is more, they come forward with a claim...to save mankind from this sense of guilt, which they call sin."

Sigmund Freud: Religion as Wish-FulfilmentSigmund Freud is the father of psychoanalysis, massively influential. He was led into the field of psychoanalysis by his opposition to religion. Freud believed that religion was a great hindrance to society, and so set out to prove that it is merely a product of the mind, an illusion. He offered both a psychological and a historical explanation of the origins of religion. Freuds historical explanation of religion is set out in his Totem and Taboo. There he imagines a father of a primal horde, whose sons envy his access to the tribes women, and so overwhelm and kill him. Even after their rebellion, the sons cannot fulfil their desire to emulate their father, due to competition between them. Religion arose out of the frustration and guilt that they felt. Freuds psychological explanation of religion builds on the ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach. Feuerbach developed the idea that God is projection of the unconscious mind; Freud added to this a psychological foundation. For Freud, as for Feuerbach, religion is wish-fulfilment. Freud adds the explanation that the adoption of religion is a reversion to childish patterns of thought in response to feelings of helplessness and guilt. We feel a need for security and forgiveness, and so invent a source of security and forgiveness: God. Religion is thus seen as a childish delusion, and atheism as a grown-up realism.

The Future of an IllusionFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Future of an Illusion

The future of an illusion cover

Cover

Author(s)

Sigmund Freud

Translator

(1)W.D. Robson-Scott: (2)James Strachey

Genre(s)

Psychology

Publisher

(1)Hogarth Press, London: (2)W. W. Norton & Company

Publication date

1927

Published in English

(1)1928: (2)1989

ISBN

978-0393008319

OCLC Number

20479722

The Future of an Illusion (Die Zukunft einer Illusion) is a book written by Sigmund Freud in 1927. It describes his interpretation of religion's origins, development, psychoanalysis, and its future.Contents[hide]

1 Religion as an instinct restrainer 2 Religion as an illusion 3 Origins and development of religion 4 Psychoanalysis of religion 5 See also 6 External links 7 Notes

[edit]Religion

as an instinct restrainer

Freud attempts to turn our attention to the future that awaits human culture. In the process of developing his thought, he finds it necessary to deal with the origin and purpose of human culture as such. By human culture Freud means all those respects in which human life has lifted itself above the animal condition and in which it differs from the life of the beast. Human culture includes, on the one hand, all the knowledge and power that men have accumulated in order to master the forces of nature, and on the other all the necessary arrangements whereby men's relations to each other may be regulated. These two conditions for culture are not separable from one another because the existing resources and the measure by which they satisfy the desires of our instincts, are deeply intertwined. Although man forms culture, he is ,at the same time, subject to it because it tames his raw instincts and makes him behave in a socially acceptable way. Thus Freud writes: "It seems more probable that every culture must be built upon . . coercion and instinct renunciation." Freud maintains that the essence of culture does not lie in man's conquest of nature for the means of supporting life, but in the psychological realm, in every man's curbing his predatory instincts. One of the instinct restrainers that man has devised to

perpetuate his culture is religion. The unique aspect of religion as reflecting moral conscience was recognized by Freud as he writes of one of its functions is attempting, ". . . to correct the so painfully felt imperfections of culture."[edit]Religion

as an illusion

Freud defines religion as an illusion, consisting of "certain dogmas, assertions about facts and conditions of external and internal reality which tell one something that one has not oneself discovered, and which claim that one should give them credence." Religious concepts are transmitted in three ways and thereby claim our belief. "Firstly because our primal ancestors already believed them; secondly, because we possess proofs which have been handed down to us from antiquity, and thirdly because it is forbidden to raise the question of their authenticity at all." Psychologically speaking, these beliefs present the phenomena of wish fulfillment. Wishes that are the "fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind." (Ch. 6 pg.38). Among these are the necessity to cling to the existence of the father, the prolongation of earthly existence by a future life, and the immortality of the human soul. To differentiate between an illusion and an error, Freud lists scientific beliefs such as "Aristotle's belief that vermin are developed out of dung" (pg.39) as errors, but "the assertion made by certain nationalists that the Indo-Germanic race is the only one capable of civilization" is an illusion, simply because of the wishing involved. Put forth more explicitly, "what is characteristic of illusions is that they are derived from human wishes." (pg. 39) He adds, however, that, "Illusions need not necessarily be false." (pg.39) He gives the example of a middle-class girl having the illusion that a prince will marry her. While this is unlikely, it is not impossible. The fact that it is grounded in her wishes is what makes it an illusion.[edit]Origins

and development of religion

Freud begins by explaining religion in a similar term to that of totemism. The individual is essentially an enemy of society[1] and has instinctual urges that must be restrained to help society function. "Among these instinctual wishes are those of incest, cannibalism, and lust for killing." (pg. 10) His view of human nature is that it is anti-social, rebellious, and has high sexual and destructive tendencies. The destructive nature of humans sets a pre-inclination for disaster when humans must interact with others in society. "For masses are lazy and unintelligent; they have no love for instinctual renunciation, and they are not to be convinced by argument of its inevitability; and the individuals composing them support one another in giving free rein to their indiscipline." (pg. 7) So destructive is human nature, he claims, that "it is only through the influence of individuals who can set an example and whom masses

recognize as their leaders that they can be induced to perform the work and undergo the renunciations on which the existence of civilization depends." (pg. 8) All this sets a terribly hostile society that could implode if it were not for civilizing forces and developing government. He elaborates further on the development of religion, as the emphasis on acquisition of wealth and the satisfaction of instinctual drives (sex, wealth, glory, happiness, immortality) moves from "the material to the mental." As compensation for good behaviors, religion promises a reward. The topic is resumed in the beginning of Freud's subsequent book, Civilization and Its Discontents:

One of these exceptional few calls himself my friend in his letters to me. I had sent him my small book that treats religion as an illusion, and he answered that he entirely agreed with my judgement upon religion , but that he was sorry I had not properly appreciated the true source of religious sentiments. This, he says, consists in a peculiar feeling, which he himself is never without, which he finds confirmed by many others, and which he may suppose is present in millions of people. It is a feeling which he would like to call a sensation of 'eternity', a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded--as it were, 'oceanic'. This feeling, he adds is a purely subjective fact, not an article of faith; it brings with it no assurance of personal immortality, but it is the source of the religious energy which is seized upon by the various Churches and religious systems, directed by them into particular channels, and doubtless also exhausted by them. One may, he thinks, rightly call oneself religious on the ground of this oceanic feeling alone, even if one rejects every belief and every illusion. The views expressed by the friend[2] whom I so much honour, and who himself once praised the magic of illusion in a poem [3] caused me no small difficulty. ... From my own experience I could not convince myself of the primary nature of such a feeling. But this gives me no right to deny that it does in fact occur in other people. The only question is whether it is being correctly interpreted and whether it ought to be regarded as the fons et origo of the whole need for religion.[4][5][6][7][8]

Today, some scholars[who?] see the arguments set forth in The Future of an Illusion as a manifestation of the genetic fallacy, in which a belief is considered false or inverifiable based on its origin.[9]Scholars still dispute this claim.[edit]Psychoanalysis

of religion

Religion is an outshoot of the Oedipus complex, and represents man's helplessness in the world, having to face the ultimate fate of death, the struggle of civilization, and the forces of nature. He views god as a manifestation of a child-like "longing for [a] father." (pg. 18) In his words "The gods retain the threefold task: they must exorcize the terrors of nature, they

must reconcile men to the cruelty of Fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they must compensate them for the sufferings and privations which a civilized life in common has imposed on them." (pg. 19)[edit]

Freud and religionFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) deals with the origins and nature of religious belief in several of his books and essays. Freud regards God as an illusion, based on the infantile need for a powerful father figure; religion, necessary to help us restrain violent impulses earlier in the development of civilization, can now be set aside in favor of reason and science.[1]Contents[hide]

1 Freud's religious background 2 Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices 3 Totem and Taboo 4 The Future of an Illusion 5 Civilization and its Discontents 6 Moses and Monotheism 7 Responses and criticisms 8 See also 9 Notes 10 Sources 11 External links

[edit]Freud's

religious background

In An Autobiographical Study, originally published in 1925, Freud recounts that "My parents were Jews, and I have remained a Jew myself." Familiarity with Bible stories, from an age even before he learned to read, had "an enduring effect on the direction of my interest." In 1873, upon attending the University at Vienna, he first encountered antisemitism: "I found that I was expected to feel myself inferior and an alien because I was a Jew."[2]

In a prefatory note to the Hebrew translation of Totem and Taboo (1930) Freud describes himself as "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" but who remains "in his essential nature a Jew and who has no desire to alter that nature".[3]

[edit]Obsessive

Actions and Religious Practices

In "Obsessive Actions and Religious Practices" (1907), his earliest writing about religion, Freud suggests that religion and neurosis are similar products of the human mind: neurosis, with its compulsive behavior, is "an individual religiosity", and religion, with its repetitive rituals, is a "universal obsessional neurosis."[4]

[edit]Totem

and Taboo

In Totem and Taboo, published in 1913, Freud analyzes the tendency of primitive tribes to promulgate rules against incest within groups named for totem animal and objects, and to create taboosregarding actions, people and things. He notes that taboos (such as that regarding incest) still play a significant role in modern society but that totemism "has long been abandoned as an actuality and replaced by newer forms". Freud believes that an original act of patricide--the killing and devouring of "the violent primal father" was remembered and re-enacted as a "totem meal...mankind's earliest festival" which was "the beginning of so many things--of social organization, of moral restrictions and of religion".[5] Freud develops this idea further in Moses and Monotheism, his last book, discussed below. In An Autobiographical Study Freud elaborated on the core idea of Totem and Taboo: "This view of religion throws a particularly clear light upon the psychological basis of Christianity, in which, it may be added, the ceremony of the totem-feast still survives with but little distortion in the form of Communion."."[6]

[edit]The

Future of an Illusion

In The Future of an Illusion (1927)[7] Freud refers to religion as an illusion which is "perhaps the most important item in the psychical inventory of a civilization". In his estimation, religion provides for defense against "the crushingly superior force of nature" and "the urge to rectify the shortcomings of civilization which made themselves painfully felt"[8] He concludes that all religious beliefs are "illusions and insusceptible of proof." [9] Freud then examines the issue of whether, without religion, people will feel "exempt from all obligation to obey the precepts of civilization".[10] He notes that "civilization has little to fear from educated people and brainworkers" in whom secular motives for morality replace religious ones; but he acknowledges the existence of "the great mass of the uneducated and oppressed" who may commit murder if not told that God forbids it, and who must be "held down most severely" unless "the relationship between civilization and religion" undergoes "a fundamental revision".[11]

Freud asserts that dogmatic religious training contributes to a weakness of intellect by foreclosing lines of inquiry.[12] He argues that "[I]n the long run nothing can withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction which religion offers to both is all too palpable."[13][14] The book expressed Freud's "hope that in the future science will go beyond religion, and reason will replace faith in God."[15] In an afterword to An Autobiographical Study (1925, revised 1935), Freud states that his "essentially negative" view of religion changed somewhat after The Future of an Illusion; while religion's "power lies in the truth which it contains, I showed that that truth was not a material but a historical truth."[16] Harold Bloom calls The Future of an Illusion, "one of the great failures of religious criticism." Bloom believes that Freud underestimated religion, and that as a result his criticisms of it were no more convincing that T. S. Eliot's criticisms of psychoanalysis. Bloom suggests that psychoanalysis and Christianity are both interpretations of the world and of human nature, and that while Freud believed that religious beliefs are illusions and delusions, the same may be said of psychoanalytic theory. In his view nothing is accomplished with regard to either Christianity or psychoanalysis by listing their illusions and delusions. [17]

[edit]Civilization

and its Discontents

In Civilization and its Discontents, published in 1930, Freud describes religion as "a sensation of 'eternity', a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded--as it were, 'oceanic'", and adds, "I cannot discover this 'oceanic' feeling in myself".[18] Freud suggests that the "oceanic feeling", which his friend Romain Rolland had described to him in a letter, is a wish fulfillment, related to the child's egoistic need for protection. [19] James Strachey, editor and translator of this and other works of Freud, describes the main theme of the work as "the irremediable antagonism between the demands of instinct and the restrictions of civilization".[20] Freud also treats two other themes, the development of civilization recapitulating individual development, and the personal and social struggle between "Eros" and "Thanatos", life and death urges.[21] Freud expresses deep pessimism about the odds of humanity's reason triumphing over its destructive forces. He added a final sentence to the book in a 1931 edition, when the threat of Hitler was already becoming apparent: "But who can foresee with what success and with what result?"[22]

[edit]Moses

and Monotheism

Moses and Monotheism was Freud's last book, published in 1939, the year of his death. In it, Freud makes certain guesses and assumptions about Moses as a historical figure, particularly that he was not born Jewish but was adopted by Jews (the opposite of the Biblical story) and that he was murdered by his followers, who then via a reaction formation revered him and became irrevocably committed to the monotheistic idea he represented.[23] [24]

Mark Edmundson comments that in writing Moses and Monotheism, Freud, while not abandoning his atheism, perceived for the first time a value in the abstract form of monotheism--the worship of an invisible God, without Jesus or saints--practiced by the Jews:.[25] 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. According to Jay Geller, Moses and Monotheism is full of "false starts, deferred conclusions, repetitions, rationalizations, defensive self-justifications, questionable methods, and weak arguments that are readily acknowledged as such by Freud."[26]

[edit]Responses

and criticisms

In a 1949 essay in Commentary magazine, Irving Kristol says that Freud correctly exposed the irrationality of religion, but has not substituted anything beyond "a mythology of rational despair".[27] In a 1950 book entitled Christianity and Freud, Benjamin Gilbert Sanders draws parallels between the theory of psychoanalysis and Christian religion, referring to Jesus Christ as "the Great Psychiatrist" and Christians' love for Christ as "a more positive form of the Transference."[28] Karen Armstrong notes in A History of God that "not all psychoanalysts agreed with Freud's view of God," citing Alfred Adler, who believed God was a projection which had been "helpful to humanity", and C.G. Jung, who, when asked whether he believed in God, said "I do not have to believe. I know!"[29] Tony Campolo, founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, observes that "With Freud, God, and the need for God-dictated restraints, had been abolished,"[30] resulting in an increase in social chaos and unhappiness which could have been avoided by adherence to religion. A number of critics draw the parallel between religious beliefs and Freud's theories, that neither can be scientifically proven, but only experienced subjectively. Lee Siegel writes that "you either grasp the reality of Freud's dynamic notion of the subconscious intuitively -- the way, in fact, you do or do not grasp the truthfulness of Ecclesiastes -- or you cannot accept that it exists.".[31]

Sigmund FreudMain articles: Freud and religion, Psychology_of_religion#Sigmund_Freud, Future of an Illusion, Totem and Taboo, Moses_and_Monotheism, and Oedipus complex Sigmund Freud (18561939) saw religion as an illusion. By illusion Freud means a belief that people want very much to be true. Unlike Tylor and Frazer, Freud attempted to explain why religion persists in spite of

the lack of evidence for its tenets. Freud asserted that religion is a largely unconscious neurotic response to repression. By repression Freud meant that civilized society demands that we cannot fulfill all our desires immediately, but that they have to be repressed. Rational arguments to a person holding a religious conviction will not change the neurotic response of a person. This is in contrast to Tylor and Frazer who saw religion as a rational and conscious, though primitive and mistaken, attempt to explain the natural world.

Freud's theory of psychoanalysiswas developed by studying patients who were left free to talk while lying on a sofa

Freud not only tries to explain the origin and persistence of faith in individuals but in his 1913 book Totem and Taboo he even developed a speculative story about how all monotheist religions originated and developed.[38]

In the book he asserted that monotheistic religions grew out of a homicide in a clan of a

father by his sons. This incident was subconsciously remembered in human societies. In his 1939 book Moses and Monotheism Freud proposed that Moses' monotheism derived from Akhenaten. This view is not supported by biblical accounts and differs from scholarly theories. Freud's view on religion was embedded in his larger theory of psychoanalysis which has been criticized as unscientific.[39]

Apart from theorizing, Freud's theories were developed by studying patients who were

left free to talk while lying on a sofa. Though Freud's attempt to the historical origins of religions have not been accepted, his generalized view that all religions originate from unfulfilled psychological needs are still seen as offering a credible explanation in some cases.[40]

Moses and MonotheismFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Moses and Monotheism

Author(s)

Sigmund Freud

Original title

Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion

Genre(s)

Psychology

Publication date 1939

ISBN

978-0394700144

This article does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations toreliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (January 2011)

Moses and Monotheism, 1939 by Sigmund Freud, ISBN 978-0394700144 (originally appearing in German in 1937 as: Der Mann Moses und die monotheistische Religion) is a book where Freud hypothesizes that Moses was not Jewish, but actually born into Ancient Egyptian nobility and was perhaps a follower of Akhenaten, an ancient Egyptian monotheist, or perhaps Akhenaten himself. The book consists of three parts and is an extension of Freud's work on psychoanalytic theory as a means of generating hypotheses about historical events. Freud had similarly employed psychoanalytic theory to history in his much earlier work, Totem and Taboo. In Moses and Monotheism, Freud contradicts the Biblical story of Moses with his own retelling of events claiming that Moses only led his close followers into freedom during an unstable period in Egyptian history after Akhenaten and that they subsequently killed Moses in rebellion and later combined with another monotheistic tribe in Midian based on a volcanic God. Freud explains that years after the murder of Moses, the rebels regretted their action thus forming the concept of the Messiah as a hope for the return of Moses as the Saviour of the Israelites. Freud said that the guilt from the murder of Moses is inherited through the generations; this guilt then drives the Jews to religion to make them feel better.

Late in life he was in his 80s, in fact Sigmund Freud got religion. No, Freud didnt begin showing up at temple every Saturday, wrapping himself in a prayer shawl and reading from the Torah. To the end of his life, he maintained his stance as an uncompromising atheist, the stance he is best known for down to the present. In The Future of an Illusion, he described belief in God as a collective neurosis: he called it longing for a father. But in his last completed book, Moses and Monotheism, something new emerges. There Freud, without abandoning his atheism, begins to see the Jewish faith that he was born into as a

source of cultural progress in the past and of personal inspiration in the present. Close to his own death, Freud starts to recognize the poetry and promise in religion.Enlarge This Image

A good deal of the antireligious polemic that has recently been abroad in our culture proceeds in the spirit of Freuds earlier work. In his defense of atheism, God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens cites Freud as an ally who, he believes, exposed the weak-minded childishness of religion. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins come out of the same Enlightenment spirit of hostile skepticism to faith that infuses The Future of an Illusion. All three contemporary writers want to get rid of religion immediately and with no remainder. But theres more to Freuds take on religion than that. In his last book, written when he was old and ill, suffering badly from cancer of the jaw, Freud offers another perspective on faith. He argues that Judaism helped free humanity from bondage to the immediate empirical world, opening up fresh possibilities for human thought and action. He also suggests that faith in God facilitated a turn toward the life within, helping to make a rich life of introspection possible. Moses and Monotheism was not an easy book for Freud to write or to publish. He began it in the 1930s while he was living in Vienna, and he was well aware that when and if he

brought the book out he could expect trouble from the Austrian Catholic Church. The book, after all, insisted on some strange and disturbing things. Most startling, it argued that Moses himself was not a Jew. How did Freud know? First of all, he claimed that Moses is not a Jewish name but an Egyptian one; second, Freuds study of dreams and fairy tales convinced him that the Bible had inverted things. In the Exodus story, Moses mother, fearing Pharaohs order to kill all Jewish boys, leaves the infant Moses in a basket on the rivers edge, where he is discovered by Pharaohs daughter. But Freud maintained that the Jews were the ones who had found him by the river. (In fairy tales and dreams, the child always begins with rich parents and is adopted by poor ones, yet his noble nature wins out or so Freud insisted.) Freud also said that monotheism was not a Jewish but an Egyptian invention, descending from the cult of the Egyptian sun god Aton. In March 1938, the Nazis invaded Austria and put Freud and his family in mortal danger. Freud managed to escape from Vienna with the help of the wealthy Princess Marie Bonaparte, whom he adored, and of the government of the United States of America, which he relentlessly disliked. President Roosevelt even took a measure of interest in Freuds case, but that did not change Freuds mind about the rogue republic at all. America is enormous, he liked to say, but it is an enormous mistake. Before leaving Vienna, Freud gave the Nazis a parting gift. They had made it clear to him that his emigration was contingent on signing a statement saying that he had not been molested in any way and that he had been able to continue with his scientific work. Freud signed, but then added a coda of his own devising: I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone. n London, where Freud arrived in June 1938, he encountered another sort of resistance to finishing and publishing the Moses book. The first person who came to see him at his house on Elsworthy Road was his neighbor, a Jewish scholar named Abraham Yahuda. Yahuda had gotten wind of the contents of the volume and had come to beseech Freud not to publish. Didnt the Jews have enough trouble in the world without one of their number saying that Moses was not Jewish and that in contrast to the peaceful death depicted in the Bible Moses had been murdered by the Jews themselves, who resented the harsh laws he had tried to impose on them? Did Freud actually intend to claim that over time guilt for the murder had enhanced Moses status and his legacy of monotheism, creating in the Jews what Freud liked to call a reaction formation? Yahuda was far from being the last of such petitioners. During his early days in London, Freud received no end of entreaties to let the project go.

What did Freud do? He published of course and not just in German but, as quickly and conspicuously as possible, in English. The reviews were terrible. The private response was often bitter. And Freud was delighted. He reveled in the strong sales figures, shrugged off the nasty reviews and sang his own praises. Quite a worthy exit, he called the Moses book.

Ted Spiegel/Corbis

Freud was fascinated by Michelangelo's sculpture of Moses, just as he was by the prophet himself.

And it was, but not chiefly because of the strange speculations about Moses identity that worried Yahuda and scandalized the books first readers. There is a more subtle and original dimension to the book, and perhaps it was that dimension that made Freud so determined to complete and publish it, despite all the resistance. For in Moses and Monotheism Freud has something truly fresh to say about religion. About two-thirds of the way into the volume, he makes a point that is simple and rather profound the sort of point that Freud at his best excels in making. Judaisms 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 peoples 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. reud speculates that one of the strongest human desires is to encounter God or the gods directly. We want to see our deities and to know them. Part of the appeal of Greek religion lay in the fact that it offered adherents direct, and often gorgeous, renderings of the immortals and also, perhaps, the possibility of meeting them on earth. With its panoply of saints, Christianity restored visual intensity to religion; it took a step back from Judaism in the direction of the pagan faiths. And that, Freud says, is one of the reasons it prospered. Judaism, on the other hand, never let go of the great renunciation. The renunciation, according to Freud, gave the Jews remarkable strength of intellect, which he admired, but it also made them rather proud, for they felt that they, among all peoples, were the ones who could sustain such belief. Freuds argument suggests that belief in an unseen God may prepare the ground not only for science and literature and law but also for intense introspection. Someone who can contemplate an invisible God, Freud implies, is in a strong position to take seriously the invisible, but perhaps determining, dynamics of inner life. He is in a better position to know himself. To live well, the modern individual must learn to understand himself in all his singularity. He must be able to pause and consider his own character, his desires, his inhibitions and values, his inner contradictions. And Judaism, with its commitment to one unseen God, opens the way for doing so. It gives us the gift of inwardness. Freud was aware that there were many modes of introspection abroad in the world, but he of course thought psychoanalysis was by far the best. He said that the poets were there before him as discoverers of the inner life but that they had never been able to make their knowledge about it systematic and accessible. So throughout the Moses book, Freud subtly identifies himself with the prophet and implies that psychoanalysis may be the most consequential heir of the Jewish advance in intellectuality. Freud believed that he had suffered for his commitment to psychoanalysis (which did not and does not lack detractors) and clearly looked to Moses as an example of a great figure who had braved resistance to his beliefs, both by Pharaoh in Egypt and by his own people. Moses hung on to his convictions much as Freud aspired to do. Moses and Monotheism indicates that Freud, irreligious as he was, could still find inspiration in a religious figure. Something similar was true about Freuds predecessor,

Nietzsche. Nietzsche is famous for detesting Christianity, and by and large he did. But he did not detest Jesus Christ whose spontaneity, toughness and freedom of spirit he aspired to emulate. There has been only one Christian, he once said, one person who truly lived up to the standards of the Gospel, and he died on the cross.