Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition
The year 1956 marked the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Sigmund Freud, a man whose long life spanned almost half of the nineteenth century and over a third of the twentieth. His essential modernity leads us to overlook how much of his life was spent in an age which most contemporaries cannot remember, and to ignore the historical factors that may have played a role in the development of psychoanalysis.
Freud was evidently aware of the deep moment of his contributions with respect to man’s self-evaluation. He once indicated that there have been three major blows to man’s narcissism. Copernicus delivered the cosmological blow; Darwin delivered the biological blow; and psychoanalysis delivered the psychological blow. In addition to his profound effect upon our ideas of the treatment of mental disorder, Freud has had an overwhelming influence on psychology at large, the arts, the social sciences, social reform, child rearing, and indeed every problem involving human relationships.
We know that genius is incomprehensible and unaccountable and it should therefore not be called upon as an explanation until every other solution has failed.
Everything new must have its roots in what was before.
Few tasks are as appealing as inquiry into the laws that govern the psyche of exceptionally endowed individuals.
The psychoanalytic movement seemingly originated as an effort on the part of a physician to cure certain ailments that were resistant to other forms of treatment; and it was in this guise that it first presented itself to the world. Yet, shortly after this introduction, it reached out to touch, infiltrate, and encompass practically every other form of intellectual endeavor.
The far-reaching consequences of Freud’s thought arc paradoxically confirmed by the degree to which his contributions are taken for granted.
Freudian concepts are used freely in the contemporary intellectual world to win insight into other problems, even as this essay, which is an attempt to understand the genesis of psychoanalysis itself, will manifest. The literature of our day uses Freudian terminology without mentioning the source, as though it were gratuitous to do so. In a world in which the method of allusion has in general gone out of fashion—because writers cannot be confident that allusions will be understood—allusions to Freudian notions are made freely in full confidence that they will be appreciated by the reader.
So much for the impact of Freud on modern thought. We turn now to the major question of this essay: Against what backdrop of the history of ideas shall we place these momentous contributions of Freud? The tremendous impact of psychoanalysis makes the problem of its origins all the more important, especially since we have learned from Freud that only by the penetration of the mystery of origins can we come to a full understanding of either the individual or society. The editors of the letters and notes which Freud wrote to his friend Fliess gave them an appropriate title beginning with the word “origins,” used in the sense that it has for our question; and the atmosphere of excitement which accompanied the publication of the letters and notes confirmed their significance to the intellectual world….
Part I.—The Background of Freud’s Development of Psychoanalysis
1. The Problem of the Oricins of Psychoanalysis
2. Hypotheses Relatinc the Origins of Psychoanalysis to Freud’s Personal Life
3. Psychoanalysis as a Problem in the History of Ideas
4. Anti-Semitism in Vienna
5. The General Question of Dissimulation
6. Did Freud Ever Dissemble?
7. Freud’s Positive Identification as a Jew
8. Freud’s Relationship to Fliess and His Other Jewish Associates
Part II.—The Milieu of Jewish Mysticism
9. Early Kabbala
10. Modern Kabbala
11. The Zohae
12. The Chmielnicki Period
13. Jewish Self-Government
14. The Sabbatian Episode
15. The Frankist Episode
Part III.—The Moses Theme in the Thought of Freud
17. The Moses of Michelangelo
18. Some Relevant Biographical Items
19. Moses and Monotheism—A Book of Double Content
20. Moses as an Ecyptian
21. Moses Was Killed by the Jews
22. Freud’s Messianic Identification
Part IV.—The Devil as Suspended Superego
24. The Transition
25. The Hypnosis and Cocaine Episodes
26. The Discovery of the Transference
27. The “Flectere …” of The Interpretation of Dreams
28. Freud’s Paper on Demoniacal Possession
29. The Composition op The Interpretation of Dreams
30. Accretion of Meanincs to the Devil Image
Part V.—Psychoanalysis and Kabbala
31. The Problem of Scholarship
32. Techniques of Interpretation
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