I’ve just finished reading the elaborately titled “The Death of Sigmund Freud, Fascism, Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Fundamentalism” by Mark Edmundson. (Published by Bloomsbury, 2007)
I’m a great admirer of Freud as my friends know, so this was a Christmas gift from one of them. I loved it! (Thanks again, Debbie!) Which is unusual given that I’m not a huge fan of the usual American take on Freudian theory. Mr Edmundson surprised me and I wholly apologise for my (to date) avoidance of your work.
Freud was a committed atheist and had a dim view of America following his visit in 1909. He was quoted once as stating that; “The country is full of savages!” a comment he never fully elaborated on. But given the things he said in the ensuing years, it has become clear that his views reflected the American pursuit of the ‘almighty dollar’. According to Mr Edmundson, Freud accused the colonists of suffering from an illness he termed ‘dollaria’
This is just an aside. The real issue is the rise of Christian fundamentalism particularly in the USA. The concept of the book guides us to a short analysis as to the reasons behind this dangerous trend. Edmundson traces Freud’s escape from Vienna in 1938 as Hitler begins his quest for world domination beginning with the annexing of Austria with Germany. Freud analyses the populace who are welcoming the führer with such gusto and determines that the rise of such tyrants as he, was both predictable and very human. He describes the inner turmoil that drives human anxieties to reach a boiling point when the need for some kind of certainty has to manifest itself in order to express and externalise those anxieties and in so doing dispelling the threat of internal chaos. At that time in history there was none more certain than Adolf Hitler. Germany had lost a war, were deceived by the Treaty of Versailles, and were in the deepest throes of economic depression. A most uncertain of times for the German people.
As for the rest of the story I recommend you read Mark Edmundson’s book.
What was interesting for me is the idea that we are now living in uncertain times and have not really evolved emotionally to cope with this uncertainty. My views on the genesis of religious thought does not counter Freud’s views on the unconscious processes that manifest themselves with conscious outbursts of magical thinking! The prenatal, developing mind, with no point of reference, is only aware of certainty. Uncertainty only becomes perceptible at birth! A trauma that can only be filled with fear – the most basic human emotion.
Unconscious phantasy is unlabelled, uncategorised emotional memory. If those early fears can be wiped out, then (the delusion of) certainty can return.
Basically; if I don’t need to think for myself, I’m happiest! Fundamentalism takes away the need for reflection. Someone else can take the responsibility for my actions. “I vas just obeying orders!” Or, “I’m doing God’s work!” Same thing, really!