The members of Freud's inner circle, which was comprised of his closest disciples, were united by a common mission: to develop and promote psychoanalysis. IronicaIly, the members of Freud's circle found themselves embroiled in emotional conflicts with each other, and with Freud. And what emerges - from the records, journals, books, articles and correspondence of the members of the inner circle - is an unsettling account of how a group of intellectuals devolved into something resembling a cult.
In 1902 Freud invited several of his followers to meet with him on a regular basis to discuss psychoanalysis. The membership included a number of individuals who would become distinguished in the early psychoanalytic movement including Alfred Adler, William Stekel, Ernest Jones, Karl Abraham, Hans Sachs, Sandor Ferenczi and Otto Rank.
After some years, a group of Swiss psychiatrists joined, including C.G. Jung, who was about twenty years Freud's junior. Freud invested a great deal of hope in Jung, whom he saw as his heir apparent, and who became known as "the crown prince of psychoanalysis," the person who would eventually become Freud's successor. Although Freud was only about fifty years old when he created his inner cirde, the need to have psychoanalysis continue on in the world after he was gone was obviously of crucial importance to Freud.
Jung writes about how they talked together for thirteen hours, nonstop, during their initial meeting, actually addressing each other as father and son in some of their letters. This should not be surprising, since it would appear that Freud had a paternal relation to all of his disciples. It was just that Jung had quickly become his favorite son.
But Freud, always with an eye to public relations, had another reason for favoring him. Jung was not Jewish, unlike almost all of the other members of the inner cirde, induding Freud bimself. Freud thought that by having a gentile at the helm of the Psychoanalytic Society, psychoanalysis would not be dismissed by anti-Semites, both European and American, as merely a Jewish phenomenon. Of course, Freud could have chosen Ernest Jones for he, too, was a Christian, but apparently Freud did not have the same confidence in Jones as he did in Jung.
As in all cults and totalitarian groups, the leader' s opinions and ideas are regarded as gospel, as official doctrine. The majority of Freud's circ1e accepted the party line, at least outwardly. But Freud' s circ1e also induded some independent, creative thinkers who were finding it increasingly difficult to suppress the dictates of their personal ideas and vision. Consequently, those creative individuals found themselves hemmed in and oppressed by the limits of Freud's conceptual schema.
Adler, for example, might wish to discuss the possibility that a certain patient's dream was really expressive of power issues, rather than about repressed sexual libido, and that feelings of inferiority and sodal interests also played an important role in an individual's psychic economy. And Jung would contend that there were religious and spirituallongings at the root of human behavior, as well.
Thus it was becoming apparent over time that Adler was drifting away from doctrinaire Freudianism. His writings indicated that he did not subscribe to the fundamental axioms of psychoanalysis such as infantile sexuality and the importance of the Oedipus Complex. It will be necessary to go into more detail about what led up to these conflicts, but suffice it to say for now that Freud decided to put his foot down. At one meeting, he arranged to humiliate Adler by presenting a paper in which he aggressively attacked Adler's ideas.
Or as Paul Roazen wrote, Freud outwardly denounced Adler. As Sachs, who voted with Freud, remembered, Freud "did not spare his opponent and was not afraid of using sharp words and cutting remarks." (Roazen, Freud and his followers, 1971, p. 184.)
This soon lead to Adler' s resignation, along with several of his friends and supporters, including Stekel. If Freud imagined that his problems would be over now that the "traitorous" Adler and his sympathizers were gone, he was sorely mistaken. Over time, Freud and Jung's relationship grew increasingly strained. It is apparent from Jung's correspondence with Freud, that Jung was becoming oversensitive, almost in a paranoid way, to the srnallest hint that Freud had slighted him. These misunderstandings were followed by reconciliations, followed by new tensions and conflicts. Freud did all that he could to patch things up, but that meant keeping it as father/son relationship. It was becorning apparent, though, that Jung no longer wished to be Freud's "son." Jung's letters reveal that he may have been trying to hide from himself his ambivalent feelings about independence, under the guise of hostility.
The final break with Jung was also very distressing for Freud, for it dashed his hopes for an ideological heir who would be able to carry the torch of psychoanalysis. Freud believed that without an heir, the psychoanalytic movement would founder and maybe not survive. Apparently, he did not have much confidence in anyone else in the inner circle to replace Jung, nor, it would seem, did Freud believe that his ideas could survive in the world on their own merit. Of course, ideas in the world, like children in the world, are subject to a1l sorts of permutations; they can evolve in ways that their creator cannot control.
Apropos was the distinguished psychiatrist Eugen Bleuler's letter to Freud explaining his reason for resigning from the International Psychoanalytic Society:
This "who is not for us is against us,“ he declared to Freud in 1911, upon resigning from the International Psychoanalytic Association, „this 'all or nothing' is in my opinion necessary for religious communities and useful for political parties. There I can accept the principle as such, but for science, I consider it harmful.“ (Peter Gay, Pleasure Wars: The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud, 1998, p. 215)
The departure of Jung not only meant to Freud that he had lost his successor, the person who would be the shepherd and guardian of his ideas, but it also meant that Jung had now become, in Freud's eyes, a serious threat. This was because Jung was espousing a rival psychological theory. At that time there were, of course, other schools of psychology, including Adler's Society for Individual Psychoanalysis. What was it about Jung's theory that Freud found so threatening? Jones quotes a letter that Freud wrote to Ferenczi on January 5th, 1913, that expresses the tenor of Freud's fears.
Emest Jones in his famous biography of Freud (1955) wrote,“Naturally everything that tries to get away from our truths will find approbation among the general public. It is quite possible that this time we shall be really buried, after a burial hymn has so often been sung over us in vain. That will change a great deal of our personal fate, but nothing that is of Science. (Jones, 1955, p. 148)
Freud's belief that the general public was against his ideas was simply not true; on the contrary, Freud's ideas were becoming increasingly popular. It was Freud's cynicism, impatience, and lack of faith in life, that made him too easily despair. Freud's letter also suggests that Jung's departure would lead the public to conclude that psychoanalysis was not a science. A science, in Freud's mind, was a unified body of knowledge, and having contending schools of psychoanalysis would belie its scientific claims. But hasn't science always had contending schools of thought?
Thus, the notion that the public' s realization of this would lead to the death and burial of the inner circle was a baseless fear. There was a sense on Freud's part of martyrdom, which as we have seen before on this website, derives from a paranoid delusion of grandeur. In other words, those who are under the sway of the paranoid vision see themselves as acting defensively, and therefore feel justified for behavior that is downright hostile, as was the behavior of Freud and his followers. Thus Freud and his remaining disciples that is Max Eitingon, Oto Rank, Karl Abraham, Emest Jones, Sandor Ferenczi, and Hans Sachs, felt the need to close ranks in 1912. They continued until 1926 to protect psychoanalysis, and to safeguard Freud's legacy after he died. Freud gave each of the members the gift of a finger ring which represented their fealty to Freud. Their loyalty and belief in Freud therefore was such, that they too fell under the sway of a paranoid vision.
When Jung had bis final break with Freud, he was still president of an organization that Freud had created years before, the International Psychoanalytic Society. Indeed, Freud had nominated him to that position. The fact that Jung was still its president engendered a great deal of fear on the part of this inner Committee. They feared that Jung would use bis position to cause trouble, and attempted to destroy Jung's professional reputation. As Richard Webster writes, "At the height of the conflict with [Jung] intellectual distaste for his views was converted into something approaching physical revulsion" (Webster, Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis, 1995, p. 383)
These early psychoanalysts thus abandoned their petty and exhausting squabbles with each other, and to unite against a common enemy.As it was, Jung resigned from the International Psychoanalytic Society by his own choice, so all of this proved quite unnecessary.
Some years latter, the question of loyalty appeared again, this time with 0to Rank who was himself a member of the Committee. AIthough living in America, he was still close to Freud, and wouId visit him during his trips to Europe. The trouble began when Rank wrote a book, which he dedicated to Freud, on the birth trauma. The emphasis here was not on the child' s relation to the father, which it had been for Freud, but on the child' s relation to the mother (Webster, 1995). Initially, Freud was encouraging of Rank's novel ideas. But the other members of the Committee realized that Rank' s birth trauma theory was contrary to orthodox Freudianism. They were very concerned by this, and did not let Freud alone until he too was concemed. As a result Rank felt obliged to write an abject letter of apology to the entire Committee for having written his book. As Grosskurth describes it:
What were Rank's choices? He was like a cornered rat. Freud had wamed the American analysts that Rank's theories in no way represented his own. The Committee had c1osed ranks against him, and even his friend and collaborator Ferenczi no longer supported him. Without the imprimatur of official psychoanalysis, scientific journals would be elosed to the exposition of his ideas, students would be unavailable, and he would receive no referrals.
Freud seemed to have acted as the Grand Inquisitor, and Rank's groveling "confession" could have served as a model for the Russian show trials of the 193O’s. Did Rank ever mutter "eppur si muove"? He believed with a11 his heart in his theory, but managed to avoid discussing it in the letter. The emphasis is placed completely on his state of mind. He addresses the Committee as though it were a Star Chamber, not a group of fellow analysts. He admits to moral turpitude, but about what? The real question of his theory and technique are totally ignored. (The Secret Ring: Freud's Inner Circle and the Politics of Psychoanalysis by Phyllis Grosskurth,1991, pp. 167-168)
In Rank' s letter of confession, he states that the reason for his having espoused a theory that was contrary to Freudian orthodoxy, and obviously false, was that his own psychological problems at the time drove him to write it. It is indeed the case that whereas a religious organization would consider heresy a sin, Freud and his loyalist disciples considered ideological heresy to be due to psychological illness. This is, in fact, how Jones - who was, most likely, expressing the party line on this point - explained the formation of divergent psychoanalytic theories:
Theoretically, it should have been possible to anticipate the possibility of relapses among analysts such as we were familiar with in our patients, but nevertheless the first experiences of the kind were unexpected and startling. Nowadays we are less astonished.
When an analyst loses insight he had previously had, the recurring wave of resistance that has caused the loss is apt to display itself in the form. of pseudoscientific explanations with the name of a "new theory." Since the source of this is on an unconscious level it follows that controversy on a purely conscious scientific level is foredoomed to failure (1955, p. 127).
In other words, divergent theories, such as those of Adler and Jung, are not to be taken seriously in themselves because, by virtue of Jones' argument ad horninem, they are merely the product of their creators having a psychological relapse. What has happened to psychoanalysis? The inner circle had truly devolved from an intellectual circle into something akin to a cult.
Dehumanizing one' s opponents - by declaring them insane and their theories a product of that insanity - is a way of maintaining a fanatical hold on the group's truth. Like: "we are capable of knowing the truth since our minds are free and undouded by mental illness/your mind is clouded by mental illness hence, frorn the standpoint of truth, your ideas are but the meaningless babblings of a madman, and only havemsignificance from a psychiatrie point of view." Eventually, though, Rank drifted away from Freud, and Rank too would be ‚excomunicated.’
Could it be that there is a certain kind of theory that lends itself to being held as holy writ, and whieh then leads to all that then follows, ineluding the anathematizing of heretics? Any theory can engage people's passions. One might recall, for example, Louis Pasteur' s battle to have the scientific community consider the merits of his germ theory. All the same, the theories that are defended with the most passion are usually those that are totalistic, they seek to explain absolutely everything. Such theories, although they appear to be sdenee, are really metaphysics. Consequently, nothing less than meaning, purpose, and indeed reality itself, are at stake.
There is another factor that is intrinsic to totalistic theories. In contending that sexuality is the first principle of human behavior - in its repressed form it is at the root of neurosis and in its sublimated form, it is at the root of social, cultural and intellectual achievements - Freud was not making a scientific observation, one that could be tested through experimentation. That is, whether or not Freud was correct in his interpretations, he sought to support them on data derived from a small number of theoretically controversial case studies.
Indeed, many of Freud' s theories were not even derived from case studies, but from myths or tragedies such as Oedipus. And was using psychoanalysis as a form of philosophical explanation. As Barbara Von Eckardt states, "[Freud] seems to have believed that a theory could be justified solely on the basis of its explanatory power" (Eckardt , Beyond Freud, 1998, p.108).
Explanatory principles are not what one experiences, but how one experiences the world, and they are totalistic because they seek to explain everything. They are not the world that a person sees, but the glasses with which he or she sees the world. Freud, then, was using sexuality as an explanatory principle, as a first principle in the philosophical sense, whose purpose was to make sense of everything else. The great mass of phenomena that comprise human reality were to be rendered intelligible by means of the conflicts and crises that belong to a sexual being.
Freud, in conjunction with his psychoanalyzed patient, would create a narrative truth, an interpretation that was constituted out of the various fabries of the patient's experience so as to be in accord with psychoana1ytic theory. Thus, the psychoanalyst is not so much a pattern finder as a pattern maker. To interpret or make patterns out of one's experience is at the heart of the enterprise of explanation. If patients were cured it was not necessarily because their experience had been illuminated. It may be, as some have argued, that the mere act of creating a coherent story out of one' s experience is healing. That is probably true, but there is a more fundamental reason why. It was healing because Freud's patients had switched from one mode of explanation to another, i.e. from their Victorian way of seeing the world.
Freud did, of course, make empirical observations, and some very perceptive ones at that, but there was usually a gap, what one might call an "ontological non sequitur" between his empirical observations and his theories. In any case, Freud's psychological monism was a form of totalism. In his later years then, Freud became a dualist. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle he contended that, in addition to Eros, there existed Thanatos, the death instinct; both were responsible for human behavior. It was supposedly World War I, in all of its shocking grisliness. that inspired Freud to believe that there must be a death instinct. It is interesting how the perception of immense suffering will drive a person to dualism, for now evil (Thanatos, for Freud) becomes aseparate metaphysical principle.
Those who desperately ding to their first principle, refusing to acknowledge their inner doubts, become fanatics. Fanaticism is paranoiagenie because one's self-doubts are projected onto another person or group of people, just as the Catholic Church projected their own emerging doubts about their theocentric worldview onto Galileo. In the case of the inner drele, Freud projected his inner doubts on those heretics who proposed rival theories of psychopathology. Once the defense mechanism of projection is activated, and once those who are fanatical see themselves as merely acting defensively, the other manifestations of the paranoid vision follow suit.
The behaviorists, those who subscribe to the medical model of psychopathology, the Jungians, indeed almost all schools of psychotherapy are probably far less theoretically self-critieal than the Freudians and at least as doctrinaire. Psychology still needs its Kant, although it is not clear whether really anything would free psyehology from the tyranny of un-self-eritical metaphysical assumptions.
Roazen furthermore states how Freud' s eventual rejection of Victor Tausk - one of his most brilliant early disciples - was a major factor in Tausk' s suicide at the age of forty. Freud's reaction to Tausk's suicide was heartless, revealing a good deal about how he saw his disciples and everyone eise. Farrell quotes Freud's letter to Lou-Andreas Salome:
In bis letter to me he swore undying loyalty to psychoanalysis, thanked me etc. But what was behind it all we cannot guess. After all he spent bis days wrestling with the father ghost. I confess that I do not really miss him: I had long rea1ized that he could be of no further service, indeed he constituted a threat to the future. (Roazen, 1996, p. 79)
Freud refers to Tausk's pledge of undying loyalty, which was what the authoritarian Freud demanded. The historian Paul Johnson (1990) once defined an intellectual as someone who considers ideas more important than people. Johnson is perhaps being a bit hyperbolic, but his remark is certainly aecurate in regard to Freud.
In any case, Roazen also points out that another early disciple, Herbert Silberer, also killed himself over being rejected by Freud. It is obvious, then, that the disagreements that Freud had with his disciples were not simply about ideas, or about explanatory principles. There existed a more fundamental conflict involving father / son dynamics. According to Phyllis Grosskurth, "The early psychoanalytic movement took the form of an extended family whose origin was the idealized family of the Committee. It was a male family of sons led by a patriarchal father, but conspicuous in its lack of a nurturing mother."
(Grosskurth,The Secret Ring, 1991, pp. 15-16) Apropos of these masculine tensions is the fact that Freud got along in a much easier way with some of his women disciples. Although neither Lou Andreas-Salome nor his daughter Anna Freud were members of Freud' s inner cirele, they were active in the various psychoanalytic associations and very close to Freud. Francois Roustang indicates why the men had a problematic relation to Freud, but the women less so:
Personal obedience was not enough to guarantee faithfulness to the Freudian way of thinking nor to sustain what was necessary for the analysis. When one considers on the one hand the mysticoclinical ideas of Lou Andreas-Salome, which Freud hardly criticizes and even encourages, and on the other hand the reductive interpretations of Anna Freud, which subvert psychoanalysis in the most decisive way, one is convinced that the confidence Freud had in these women is equal only to their admiration of him and their submission to him. They explicitly questioned neither Freud nor his work, thanks to which they could transform psychoanalysis into a Russian novel or a school textbook. (Roustang, How to Make a Paranoid Laugh,1998, pp. 255-256)
Consequently, even to be obedient to Freud was not sufficient to ensure his love and approbation, if one were a man, for the sheer act of being a man made one a potential subject, thinker, knower, intellectual contender, and critic.
During the innitial advent of Jung and the other members of the Swiss contingency caused serious discord in the organization; it was dear that Freud favored the Swiss over his original Viennese members. In one of his early correspondences to Jung, Freud actually suggested that Jung treat him like an equal, but Jung wrote back that he wished to relate to Freud as a son. Since Freud was a generation older, any other relation might have felt strained for Jung and the others. Gay speculates that Jung knew that Freud had some trouble with friendships - his former friendships with Breuer and then with Fliess had been bitter disappointments. The problem, though, was that these psychologically familial relations tended to draw out emotions and had the long-term effect of infantilizing many of the members of the inner circle, such that they became incapable of doing or thinking anything without getting Freud's consent, while squabbling with each other like siblings in rivalry for their parent's attention. Then, of course, they become resentful and rebellious adolescents. Perhaps it was the very nature of the intimate investigations of each other's childhood conflicts that invited that type of psychological regression.
To an extent, one must sympathize with Freud; his disciples had to emerge as mature individuals, and it may be that the dynamies of cultish organizations like the inner circle tend to retard one' s emotional maturation. A good leader, on the other hand, will seek to dissolve the resultant personal and interpersonal tensions that arise in such an emotionally-charged atmosphere, but aleader with a dark agenda will capitalize on those tensions, often unconsciously. There are a number of subterranean motives for doing so. First of all, it is flattering to see other people compete for one's approval and love. A second motive for inviting rivalry is this: the leader knows, whether consciously or unconsciously, that this sort of competition for his approval breeds conformity and obedience amongst his disciples, which is what an insecure leader desires. If receiving the leader' s good opinion requires demonstrating that one uncritically accepts his doctrine, then the disciples will compete with each other to see who can conform the most. That would appear to be exactly what happened in Freud' s inner circle.
The downside of this is that the hostility and conflicts that it gene rates can get out of hand, threatening to irreparably fracture the group. Also, aleader is apt to lose respect for and grow contemptuous of such adoring disciples.
It would appear, then, that the leader of a cultish, or totalistic, organization is rarely a truly good father who prepares his chi1dren to think and judge for themselves, and thus to become adults with strong independent lives. On the contrary, he encourages their dependency, and subverts any moves that they might make to independence. It is interesting that when relations between Freud and Jung began to turn bitter, Freud tried to appease Jung, but he only ended up exacerbating the situation.
One of the ways that Freud sought to encourage the dependence of his disciples was to psychoanalyze them. If they disagreed with Freud about anything involving, for example, an interpretation of their behavior or Freud's interpretation of a dream, their disagreement was attributed to "resistance" or repression, or some other defense mechanism on their part. In this way, Freud disqualified his followers to be free thinkers, capable independent judgment. Consequently, they became all the more dependent upon Freud - whose thinking was supposedly unc1uded by psychological complexes - for insights into themselves, and the eventual psychological freedom.
Jung (who elsewhere has been accused of also becoming a cultic personality), caught on to the hermeneutical bind, that Freud was using to control his followers, and accused Freud of doing exactly that. Freud' s response is significant, for he adamantly denies it, and then, almost immediately in the same letter does the very thing that he just denied. In a letter to Jung, dated 1913, Freud writes,
Your allegation that 1 treat my followers as patients is demonstrably untrue. . . It is a convention among us analysts that none of us need feel ashamed of his own neurosis. But one [meaning Jung] who while behaving abnormally keeps shouting that he is normal gives ground for the suspicion that he lacks insight into his illness. Accordingly, 1 propose that we abandon our personal relations entirely. (Freud 1913, p. 1)
Farrell contends, Freud 'projected,' in the most uneomplieated sense of the term, his own hostility onto the surrounding intelleetual eommunity, imagining that it was peculiarly enraged by his findings" (Farrell,1996, p. 53). There was more involved there, however, in terms of projection. It is rather eommon, not only for a single person to project, but for an entire group to project. The unresolved anxiety and hostility that they feel towards each other, and particularly towards their leader for having psychologically eastrated them, is channeled into fear, suspidon and hatred towards imagined enemies outside the group. This way intra-group tensions get dissolved for a time as they turn into inter-group tensions.
Thus, the growing discontent, frustration and hostility experienced by the members of the inner drele were translated into a paranoid sense of being persecuted by the enemies of psychoanalysis. This is nothing new, for it has been said many tirnes before that organizations seek out external enemies, scapegoats onto which to discharge their poisons, so as to maintain their own cohesiveness.
It was flattering for Freud to see himself as a hero willing to courageously defend the truth in the face of the world' s violent antagonism. The actual prospect of success, though, to a person like Freud - who sees himself as a courageous liberator, willing to be a martyr for the truth - can be troubling, for as Rieff states:
So congenial was the stance of an emancipator that Freud could not cope with the victory that was his during the last period of his life. As he tried to ward off the easy ascent of patients as itself a sign of resistance, so Freud could not acknowledge the extent to which his own views had actually vanquished the prudery against which they were aimed. He bad been prepared for a long struggle of ideas: like the siek individual, he wrote, the siek society is "bound to offer us resistance." (1979, p. 337)
Apropos of Rieff's observation is what Freud experienced in America. Freud received an invitation to speak at Clark College, in Worcester, Massachusetts. When Freud arrived, Stanley Hall, the president of Clark, awarded him an honorary doctor of letters. The four lectures that Freud gave there were attended by some very eminent American psychologists, including William James.According to Peter Gay, Freud was taken by surprise by the whole affair. At least in America, or at least at Clark College, psychoanalysis was receiving the recognition, honor and respect that Freud so badly craved. Freud, though obviously very pleased by the honors bestowed upon hirn in America, discounted the whole event by disparaging America - in the way that European intellectuals did back then and still do today - for being primitive, shallow, devoted exclusiveIy to money, and all the other familiar anti-American stereotypes. Freud told his disciples how happy he was to be leaving America and returning to Vienna.
But was it really Vienna that Freud missed? He had always toId everyone how much he disliked that city, even though he chose to remain there. For one thing, America was becoming a good dealless prudish than Victorian Vienna, thus belying Freud' s notion of the stubbornness of repression and the immense resistance to psychoanalysis that he had antidpated. In addition, success, recognition, and respect in America did not fit with his martyrdom narrative. Neurotic that he was, he had projected a whole melange of tenebrous feelings relating to martyrdom onto Vienna.
Also as Roazen states:
Freud thrived on opposition - whether it came from teachers, the resistances of patients, deviating pupils, or the outside world. He is said to have remarked to a favorite patient that "open opposition, and even abuse, was far preferable to being silently ignored." "Many enemies, much honor," he wrote, "If the time of 'Recognition' should arrive it would compare with the present as the weird glamour of the Inferno does with the blessed boredom of Paradise. (Naturally I mean this the other way round.) (1971, p. 196)
Opposition confirmed his dark sense of reality, his pride at being a conquistador and a martyr, and it enabled him to lead a cult by having them project and discharge their growing resentment onto the outer world. Is it any surprise, then, that Freud did not like England? The British, in their relative liberality and tolerance, were too respectful and open to his ideas. England was, therefore, not a place where Freud's inner drama of heroic resistance to persecution could find confirmation in the objective world. Only the paranoid vision, with its sense of a threatening extemal enemy, could keep his inner world together, and his inner circle together.
But Freud’s theory had also a quality similar to a conspiracy theory where everything cultural, intellectual, or spiritual has been reduced to a dimension of social reality. In other words, culture does not arise organically, but is imposed on us from without, by parents and educators. For example, one gathers from Freud that if one' s parents did not impose religious beliefs on the child, that he or she would not naturally develop them. The suggestion is that the products of culture and spirit are artificial, or have merely a utilitarian value.
It follows, then, that the products of culture are not what they seem, for if one were to strip away their mask one would discover that they are sublimated libidinal energy. Thus the products of culture are unreal, or less than real, compared to the instinctual. That is why, in the metaphysics that underlies Freud's psychology, there is only one true reality, and that is the libido.
It also appears that Freud was growing increasingly nihilistic.Apropos here is the story of Horace Frink. He was, strange to say, both a very gifted Ameriean disciple of Freud and also on e of Freud's patients. When Frink traveled to Vienna, he both trained with Freud and underwent therapy with him. Although Frink was a depressive, with suicidal tendencies, Freud still sought to have Frink become head of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. And refusing to see him further, even as Frink's depression was deepening. Freud had promised Frink happiness once he left his wife, Doris Best, and two children for a New York heiress named Bijur.
According to Crews, Freud told Frink that he should, "get divorced and remarried to a rich woman, or you will turn homosexual.“( Frederick Crews, Unauthorized Freud: Doubters Confront a Legend 1998, p. 261). That sort of quackery sounds almost farcical, were it not for its tragie consequences. In no time, the supreme happiness had degenerated into a hopeless mismatch. The events that transpired resulted in ruining Frink's first marriage as well as Bijur's first marriage. Both Frink's ex-wife and Bijur's exhusband were devastated.
What was Freud thinking? It is apparent from his correspondence with Frink that Freud believed in sexual satisfaction and emotional fulfillment through romantic love, no matter what the cost; he was surprisingly contemporary in that regard. Furthermore, ever in need of money to promote psychoanalysis, Freud saw that Frink marrying into money could mean generous donations for psychoanalysis. Edmunds quotes a letter that Freud sent to Frink: „May I suggest to you that your idea Mrs. B. had lost part of her beauty may be turned into her having lost part of her money... Your complaint that you cannot grasp your homosexuality implies that you are not yet aware of your phantasy of making me a rich man.. .let us change this imaginary gift into areal contribution to the Psychoanalytic Funds...“
Freud used the need to have psychoanalysis succeed in the world as his vindication for being mercenary, and for bis manipulation of Frink and the other parties to this drama. Perhaps those who are able to justify their actions in such a manner are not really nihilists. After all, they do value something, namely the success in the world of their movement, whether it be, for example, Marxism, National Socialism, Radical Islamism, or Psychoanalysis. One could contend, though, that if, in adopting such an ultimate concem, one refuses to let anything stand in one's way, one is nihilistic.
Eugene Rose for example wrote in 1962, that he understands nihilists to be the "terrible simplifiers." After mentioning the simplifications of Lenin, Stalin, Ritler änd Mussolini, he states, "More profoundly, Nihilist 'simplifications' may be seen in the universal prestige today accorded the lowest order of knowledge, the scientific, as weIl as the simplistic ideas of men like Marx, Freud, and Darwin..." (Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age , Rose, 2001, p. 38). It is the simplistic nature of totalistic creeds that make them nihilistic, for in their rush to explain how it is an one, they place the world on a Procrustean bed, thus destroying life, for life is invariably complex.
Another aspect of nihilism is the adoption of a teleological ethics. It is pretty near impossible to live without justifying one's actions by virtue of certain ends. The classical example is that it may be necessary to lie or to steal in order to save somebody' s life.
Teleological ethics may be contrasted with those ethics that Kant called "deontological." In the latter, one follows a moral maxim regardless of consequences. Kant's morality has the virtue of treating people like ends in themselves, rather than as means to an end. Kanfs ethics, however, also runs into many other serious difficulties. We wont go into those difficulties here, other than to say that such ethics are unlivable. But at least Kant's ethics are not nihilistigenic.
A stereotype of the nihilist is a person who wears all black, recites the poetry of Baudelaire, and is contemplating silicide, but if that image has any validity, it is of the outwardly despairing species of nihilist, of the person bereft of an ultimate purpose. The nihilist is thought to be the antithesis of the true believer. It could be argued, though, that the latter has simply gone frorn being despairing to being engaged, while still being a nihilist. After all, has the apostle of a blind faith, the dogmatist, the uncritical fundamentalist, the fanatic, reaIly overcome nihilism?
What rescues the nihilist from the threat of meaninglessness is a goal of sort, a telos, one that it regarded as being infinitely important to fulfill. Bringing about the just society would, for example, be one such end. See, for example, Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven, (Random House 2003) which explores how two Mormon brothers, infused with millenarian longings, claimed that they hearet a revelation from God, and that it commanded them to kill people. This is a philosophical problem that must be faced if the problem of fanaticism is to be overcome.
What makes nihilism relevant to this discussion is that it is paranoiagenie. Metaphysical conspiracy theories, such as psychoanalysis, are both ideological expressions of the paranoid vision, as weIl as being themselves paranoiagenic.
There may have been, though, a countervailing factor at the heart of Freudian psychoanalysis that has militated against its paranoiagenic tendencies. In contrast to Marxism, for example, which is clearly millenarian and utopian, Freudian psychoanalysis has a far more constrained vision of life. For example Freud called into question some deeply cherished beliefs, such as the unlimited perfectibility of man and his inherent goodness. Freud's sobering view of life here stands in sharp contrast to the unconstrained millennialism, which - in the form of communism and fascism - was becoming a dangerous force in the world during the 1930s and 1940s, As Freud indicates in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), to be a mature adult,one must accept the limits, and the finitude of the "reality principle.“ (p.17)
Freud saw the repressions of civilization as necessary; there is no freedom from sexual constraint to be found in Freud. None of this is millenarian or utopian. The historian of psychoanalysis Richard Webster contends, though, that Freud was a messianic leader, and that everything about psychoanalysis makes it a religion. Furthermore, there is, according to Webster, an apocalypticism implicit in psychoanalysis and also in Jung's ideas. As Webster writes:
Jung' s vision here, like that of Freud, is characteristic of the apocalyptic religious thinker who sees himself and his followers as islands of purity surrounded by a sea of corruption and filth. Jung would latter write with seeming objectivity about how Freud describes psychoanalyses as a wall of truth "against the black tide of mud." (Why Freud Was Wrong, 1995, p. 377)
There is a curious conflation between Freud's sense of ideological purity and an actual physical sense of purity. Webster does not, though, state anything about psychoanalysis having a notion of a millennium or of a utopia. If Freud is the messiah, what good news does he bring for modem man? There really does not seem to be any, other than maybe the possibility of psychological health. If that constitutes an implicit millennialism, it might be the millennialism of child psychologists, social workers, or educational reformers, who imagine creating a world where parents and educators willleam to say and do the right thing so that future generations will grow up free of neurosis. But if that could be considered to be millennial, it is lukewarm and not very emotionally captivating to most other people. Furthermore, since Freud believes that conflict between the instincts and society is inevitable, neurosis will always be a very real possibility.
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