1. Philosophy of Freud: Part I (Remastered)

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 15 2024

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Philosophy of Freud

When we face the modern world we find that things are often Topsy-turvy in terms of any common sense. That men, instead of working to establish law and order very often seem to be engaged in working to destroy law and order. For example, a practicing attorney has written: “...the most encouraging note about the new Kinsey report is its indication that more and more women are beginning to commit more and more sex crimes.” 1 It is ironic that we should applaud criminality instead of prosecuting criminals. What has happened to the modern world? Who is responsible for it? Who are the architects of the modern mind? The three great shapers of the modern mind are; Marx, Darwin, and Freud. These three men have molded and shaped our world today, bringing The Enlightenment to its logical culmination. The Enlightenment supplanted faith in God and His infallible word with faith in man and nature. Now, paradoxically, the Enlightenment has turned upon its own production, and has attacked man.

Freud saw himself as the destroyer of man, and he said he was one of the three great enemies and destroyers of man, Copernicus being the first, Darwin the second, and himself the third. The Enlightenment began with hopes of creating a brave new world, a paradise on earth. It culminated in Freud’s perspective, with no hope for man. Because Freud saw no hope for mankind, the only thing man could hope to do is to understand his predicament.

Before we analyze Freud’s answer let us stop briefly to take a look at the man. Freud was a man who had very limited contact with people. He grew up in a well-to-do Jewish family in Austria, was extensively protected from the world as a child and as a young man, was kept free from any hardships or undo contacts with the harsh realities of this world. As a scientist and a professor, he rarely ever lectured, so that apart from his brief lectures in America he rarely faced an audience. As a practicing psychiatrist he had a very limited number of patients, he was not interested in having patients in order to make money, but he took a limited number for purely clinical purposes, for purposes of study. Thus, his outlook on the world was very limited, his contact with men very small, and he made no bones about it that his main source for his theories was himself; that his work was extensively autobiographical.

But was Freud so strange a monster within that he gave forth such theories? Freud himself began as a romantic and idealistic young man, in fact, if anything, we would have to say he was then, and during most of his life if not all of his life, very definitely on the prudish side. He did not, for example, his bride-to-be Martha Bernays to read ‘Don Quixote;’ he thought that this was very poor reading for a girl and there were some passages there that might be lurid for her. And although he loved opera deeply he had to warn his bride-to-be before she went to see Carmen, and he wrote:

“The mob gives vent to its appetites, and we deprive ourselves. We deprive ourselves in order to maintain our integrity. We economize in our health, our capacity for enjoyment, our emotions. We save ourselves not knowing what. And this habit of constant suppression of natural instincts gives us the quality of refinement.” 2

Freud made it clear that he did not feel he was bound by sexual laws. Some of his biographers claim that there was no woman in his life apart from his wife; Freud himself specifically denied this. But, on the whole, he was, although by his own statement not a moral man, a very prudish one who avoided sex as much as possible, didn’t like to discuss it although he wrote about it, and in the family circle was exceedingly proper. On one occasion his son Martin said that when there was a family discussion about cattle during a vacation when the children had seen some livestock, it became apparent that the children did not know where babies came from. And Freud was a little upset and he said “you must be told these things” 3 but his son said that he told them nothing whatever, then or later. He fought shy of anything that had involved him speaking about the subject. Freud’s prudery was fantastic at points and, to him, instead of being congenial to the modern free and easy ways of so many followers of Freud the nude female was, he felt, a shocking and traumatic sight for any man to see. And he was very, very hostile to the kind of license that passed under his name.

Freud then was not like many of the figures of the last century; Sir Richard Francis Burton, Havelock Ellis, Lewis Henry Morgan, Matagasa, and many others whose interest was primarily sexual, who were trying to break down sexual standards and laws, and who were pioneers and crusaders for sexual license. This was not the purpose of Freud’s work. Freud’s basic interest was not in sex. On the whole he was unhappy that he was compelled to deal with it at such great length because he remained, to the end, a rather prudish figure. The basic thrust of Freud’s work was against religion. Freud hated religion with a passion, and for him this meant essentially Biblical religion. The Old and New Testaments to him, were the representative of everything that he felt had to be eliminated.

Now, Freud felt, it was feudal to try to dispose of religion as many scientists were doing; by trying to prove there was no God. Because he said you can write volumes upon volumes proving to these people there is no God but they will still go to church because they have the problem of guilt. And as long as man is guilty, and all men feel guilty, they’re going to look for a savior; and so he said there is no possibility of replacing Christianity and Biblical faith as long as men are guilt-ridden, they will then, inevitably, seek salvation and a Savior. And so Freud’s purpose was this, disassociate guilt from sin, and make guilt a problem of science rather than religion, and you will destroy religion. Teach people that guilt has its offspring in certain anthropological roots, and is therefore a problem of science, not a problem for religion, and then religion will disappear.

As a result, Freud went to anthropology, and in anthropology the man he found congenial to his purpose was William Robertson Smith, whose great work was ‘The Religion of the Semites,’ and this is a very significant book because W. or William Robertson Smith is the decisive influence on the one hand on Sigmund Freud, and on the other, on all religious modernism. There is scarcely a seminary in the United States, not more than three or four, whose faculty is not influenced by Smith. And the reason why today, according to Maurer of the University of Illinois, Freud is better accepted in the churches of America than by any other segment in the world population is due to this fact. The churches are under the influence of William Robert Smith and they find Freud’s thinking so congenial to them.

Now, Smith’s thesis and Freud’s, is that of the primal horde. Mankind, having evolved, somewhere in the stages of evolution man ran in a pack, in a primal horde. And this primal horde was ruled by a brute figure, the father. And this father would, if any of the sons threatened him, drive them off or kill them; and he would keep all the women folk; his wives, sister, daughters for himself. Then somewhere along the line the sons got together and they killed the father and ate him, and they took over possession of the mothers and sisters. And, Freud says, the basic religious motives and rituals come from this primal horde; the Eucharist or communion goes back to the eating of the father, and so on. But, for Freud, the three basic instincts of mankind are; first, incest, out of which you get the Oedipus complex and other things, the desire to posses the mother and the sisters. Second; parricide, the religious hatred of the father and the desire to kill him, and, third; cannibalism, the eating of the father.

These, for Freud, are the three basic instincts of man; incest, parricide, cannibalism. But, when they committed these things, they felt guilty, so that man has these three basic instincts but he has inherited from primitive man three basic desires not to do these things, so that millions of years of both instinct and counter-instinct are in man. The instinct to commit these three crimes and the prohibition from the primordial fathers not to do them. The one is ‘the will to life,’ to commit incest, parricide, cannibalism, and the other ‘the will to death,’ if you commit incest, parricide, cannibalism, you are dead. So that man is torn by these two counter-instincts.

Thus; for Freud, the answer could not be, as it was for the Marquis de Sade, and many others, “well let us commit incest, parricide, and cannibalism to our hearts content and be free!” Freud says no! Man now has guilt as an instinct. He feels guilty about these things because even though he won’t ever admit it to himself he wants to do these three things and he feels guilty because he wants to, so he’s torn by the will to live and the will to death. And so he has an inner law in him as well as an inner instinct to commit these crimes, and the inner law is an inexorable force of prohibition.

Now he says, if primitive man was so thoroughly bound by these instincts and counter-instincts how can modern man hope to free himself from it? Therefore, Freud says, cure is impossible. Perhaps in thousands upon thousands of years we can gradually outgrow this will to death and these counter-instincts, but for the time being it’s futile. All we can hope to do is to understand that we feel guilty, but that all of this is a part of our primitive background, and understanding we can accept ourselves for what we are.

Now, many Freudian revisionist’s have criticized Freud’s six fundamental concepts with regard to this primal horde theory. They’ve criticized the primal horde myth, they’ve criticized the doctrine of phylogenetic memories, they’ve criticized the concept of biologically innate infantile sexual phases, the Oedipus complex, the primordial language of archaic symbols, and the racial unconscious. I deal with these criticism in my paperback on Freud, and they are on solid ground of course at every point in their criticism, but, all of them, whether they criticize Freud on every point or not are Freudians in this respect, that all modern psychology and psychiatry, operates on the Freudian premise of making guilt a matter of science rather than religion, and thereby abolishing religion. This is the purpose, the function of the mental health program. This is the function of modern religious counseling and mental-health clinics whereby these modernist churches themselves work to destroy religion and supplant it with this Freudian program; science in the place of religion.

Freud, however, stuck to his guns regarding every last point of his system regarding his anthropology and the primal horde theory. And he did this because he was a far more consistent evolutionist than all of his critics and he knew that evolution does require an act of faith somewhere. And so he followed Lamarck, and accepted the doctrine of acquired characteristics, and Freud believed that man's abilities, man’s nature is either supernaturally created or it is acquired by evolutionary processes. In other words, it’s either acquired or it’s made by God. Freud recognized the dilemma of all evolutionary thinking, he realized that evolutionists are illogical. If they say “well, we don’t believe in acquired characteristics” then everything had to evolve out of a primeval Adam which had in it all the potentialities of the universe, in which case you were saying it was the same as God, which was nonsense. So, he said, the only way you can make evolution workable, is to affirm acquired characteristics, which of course is unprovable. And so, he stuck to Lamarck and he said: “If nothing is acquired nothing can be inherited.” 4 There was this rigorous honesty about Freud. He knew that Lamarckianism was unprovable but he had to believe either in God or Lamarck and he chose Lamarck and Lamarckian evolution.

Now let’s turn to Freud’s analysis of the mind or nature of man. Freud coined three terms, ‘the Id,’ ‘the ego,’ and ‘the superego.’ These are strange terms and unfamiliar to many people, but they’re not as arbitrary as they seem. When we look at them and analyze them, and then reclassify them in language familiar to us as Christians they become much more understandable. First, the Id. It is the oldest aspect of man’s personality according to Freud, and it contains everything that is inherited and fixed, present at birth, instinctual, as beyond logic and beyond the law of contradiction, has no knowledge of good and evil it has only one desire to find self-fulfillment. The ‘pleasure principle’ governs the id, and the id has one desire only, to get its way. It is unconscious and unorganized energy and drive in the person. Translated into Christian terminology we could say this is the first Adam, or the old man, and the original sin in man.

Then the ego. The ego is the organized aspect of the Id. It is governed by the reality principle and the ego says “yes” to the id, you want what you want but remember we’re living in a real world, and if you go and grab that thing you’re liable to be tossed into jail, or killed in the process. So the ego, which is a more conscious and organized aspect of mans nature, is governed by reality while the id is governed by the pleasure principle. Now, the ego is close to being what we would call ‘the mind of man.’ The superego is the repressing force, and the superego is the accumulation of education and training that we have received at home and school that tells us what we should and should not do, so that the superego resembles the conscience. Now, Freud said, you could eliminate all this nonsense that the conscious has picked up through church and home and school; but you still have the id and the ego and you still have all these counter-instincts with regard to incest, parricide, and cannibalism, so that you are still a bundle of tensions; instincts and counter-instincts, and no education or training can do away with something that is instinctual and millions of years old. So, Freud said, it is impossible to change man through psychoanalysis, or through mental health programs. Cure is not possible, only understanding. Thus, Freud held out no hope for man.

Now, Freud did want to offer hope, Freud was a man who was powerfully influenced by cabalistic and Talmudic traditions which held to a belief in salvation by sin, that freedom came through breaking the law. Moreover, Freud felt very often that he should be a hero in some such movement of this sort, he hated Moses with a passion, because Moses, for him, represented the law, and he wrote his book ‘Moses and Monotheism’ in which he tried to say “Moses was not a real Hebrew, I am. Moses was really an Egyptian who was masquerading as a Hebrew.” In other words he wanted to drive him out of any connection with Judaism and himself. At other times Freud identified himself with Hannibal. As a Canaanite who was affirming the old Canaanite fertility cult and Baal worship as against Moses. And when he went to Rome he used to visit Michelangelo’s Moses over and over again with a kind of horror, and, as he stood before the statue of Moses he admitted as it seemed to him Moses lifted up the tables of the law to dash them in wrath against the stones because of the wickedness of the people; as though Moses were going to throw them at him. He felt a personal enmity with Moses, he wanted to destroy the law and to be the new law giver, freeing man from God. And he believed, of course, that since there is no validity to the Bible there is no law, hence there is no sin, and no crime.

But in spite of all this Freud felt it is inescapable, man is caught up in this instinct and counter-instinct, this feeling of guilt, because he wants to commit these crimes of incest, parricide, and cannibalism, and the millions of years of impulse against the commission governs him. So because there is no law these instincts cannot be considered crime or sin, only mental sickness, and this is the essence of mental sickness. Mental sickness is simply this hangover from the primal horde of instinct and counter-instinct, and, therefore, it is important for us to understand ourselves through psychoanalysis, through mental health programs, and realize there is no crime. This is just a primitive urge in me and a primitive counter-instinct and that’s the reason I feel that way, so I need not take my guilt feelings seriously. Hence the slogan of the mental health movement “mental health is no disgrace, it might happen to anyone.” There is no crime, there is no sin, there is only guilt; and the answer to guilt is to deal with it through science.

Now, significantly, Freud lived up to this in a letter which I quote which he wrote on April 9, 1935 to a woman whose son was a homosexual, the mother having written to him asking if he could cure her son. Freud rebuked the mother for her horror and shame and he wrote: “homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness. We consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development.” And he goes on to state that many great people were homosexuals, and he adds; “it is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime, and a cruelty too.” And then added, as for curing her son, “to abolish homosexuality, and make normal heterosexuality take its place in a general way, we cannot promise to achieve it. What analysis can do for your son runs in a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains homosexual, or gets changed.” 5

Now that is the essence of the mental health program. Not to cure you of homosexuality or anything else, but to get you to accept yourself for what you are, and not to feel guilty. It is inevitable therefore that the churches having adopted the mental health program should take the next step and adopt the new morality. Having taught the homosexual that he is to accept himself, they now teach us that we must accept him. There is no crime, no sin, only mental sickness; and it mental sickness for the homosexual to condemn himself and to feel guilty, and it is mental sickness on your part to condemn him.

Now, Freud recognized that his teachings had an element of danger, because if you teach people that there is no crime and no sin, only guilt. People might feel; “well, if there is no crime, because there is no law, then I can do as I please.” And so he wrote “that when the masses understand this and have no fear of God they,” and I am quoting, “will certainly kill without hesitation; and so follows the necessity for either the most rigorous suppression of these dangerous masses and the most careful exclusion of all opportunities for mental awakening, or a fundamental revision of the relation between culture and religion.” In other words, there are two things you could do, you can say “we the elite believe in nothing. We know there is no crime because there is no law, but we won’t let the masses know about it; and thereby keep them firmly governed through religion.” Or else, he said “it is now inescapable that they’re going to find out, what I’m teaching is going to filter down to these people. Therefore, we have to create an order in which a scientific elite can recondition man and prepare him to accept the leadership of the scientific elite.” And so, the need is for a totalitarian world state to ensure growth without anarchy. The enlightened scientist, he said, can be trusted.

Now, he granted that he didn’t have much hope, that ultimately the death instinct, the will to death, seems to be actually stronger than the pleasure principle. So he recognized that a world-state governed by scientists could be a very ugly business, and probably would be. But since it was the one slim hope man had, it was the thing that should be done. Thus, Freud presented a grim prospect for the future, a world state governed by the scientific elite experimenting with man and controlling him totally, and yet probably being demonic in their control. Governed by a will to death, the destructive urge, so that mankind would go down in blood. It is important to note this aspect of total control. Any time you allow science to predominate in your thinking you have totalitarianism. Why? Because what is the essence of science but its experimentation? And when you have an experiment, it is necessary to have total control of all factors or you don’t have an experiment, do you? Now, if you’re going to have a social experiment, if society is going to be your experiment, total control is absolutely necessary. You have to control man from cradle to grave and you have to control every condition of man’s life, or you do not have a valid experiment. Hence, scientific socialism is the most total kind of socialism imaginable. And scientific planning is totalitarian planning to the nth degree. To a degree unimagined by any dictator of the past.

Thus, when Freud reduced man to biology, and found no way of transcending biology, he left man trapped in total frustration, only able to understand his predicament and grin and bear it, and put up with a scientific dictatorship knowing that there was very little possibility, virtually none, that it would do him good. This, the great faith of The Enlightenment ends up in a faith in total darkness, and total pessimism.

A few years ago, a French cartoonist, Marcel Vertès, had a cartoon in which a group of people are discussing psychoanalysis. And one woman remarks; “you mean to tell me that if Van Gogh had been psychoanalyzed he would not have cut off his ear?” and the answer is “Of course he would have, but he would have known why he did it.” This is the best hope that Freudianism offers. Guilt, instead of being relieved, is now made total, and man must simply grin and bear it. He lives with total guilt but he has no crime, and therefore he can make no atonement for his guilt. He is perpetually trapped in guilt.

A Los Angeles psychiatric secretary left her position a few years ago because she found it impossible to work with a psychiatrist, she said “I could not win. If I was late for work I was hostile. If I was early I had an anxiety complex, and if I was on time I was compulsive.” This is a philosophy without hope, you are guilty, no matter what you do and there is never any possibility of escaping from guilt, because there is no crime; just guilt. And where there is no law and no crime there is no possibility of atonement, no possibility of salvation from guilt, only perpetual guilt. Now, naturally there have been revisionists who tried to eliminate this bleakness of Freud’s perspective, and all modern psychologists and psychiatrists are Freudian in that they make guilt a scientific matter, rather than religious. But, in all other things they’re trying to depart from Freud in that they want an answer, they want a cure.

For one major school, the answer has been, the cure all, has been love. Love people enough and you will assuage the feeling of guilt. Give them enough love, overwhelm them with love, and no matter what they do, they will not feel guilty, they will feel accepted. And this feeling of acceptance will make up for their sense of guilt. So, no matter what they do, no matter what crime they commit, no matter how lawless they are, the answer is love. Not to eliminate a crime, but to eliminate the sense of guilt, which is the objective. On the other hand, increasingly, the attempt is to bypass the whole mind of man and to attempt to solve this matter by chemical or electrical answers. Three years ago ‘Life’ magazine had two articles which summarized the chemical and the electrical answers. The whole purpose of these wonder-drugs so called in the field of psychiatry, is precisely to bypass the problem of guilt. What do they do?

To cite a specific case; a man who was a milkman and delivered more than milk on his route found himself increasingly in a bind because he was involved with more women than he could handle, and there were more husbands than he could begin to count who were beginning to be suspicious, and he was afraid both of the woman and their nagging and of the husbands and possibly being shot to death some day. And naturally he was beginning to have certain mental problems, and he was beginning to break down under them. So he was what psychiatrists classify as ‘mentally sick,’ he had to be hospitalized for a while. Now the answer that they gave was tranquilizers. But, the effect of tranquilizers is this, what they do through chemistry is to eliminate certain reactions in a person’s system, so that both feelings of depression and exhilaration, the high and the low registers on your emotional scale are eliminated. Then he was able to function, but, like so many sinners, he wanted to have his cake and eat it too. He didn’t want to escape from his sin, he wanted to have his sin without any of the consequences; and he couldn’t go on sinning while he had these tranquilizers. And so, he quit taking them, it was much more to his taste to be guilty, even though it meant all these problems, than to be free of the problem. And so he continued mentally sick, unable to sleep at nights, tormenting his wife with his hallucinations and the like. Chemistry was no answer because he wanted no answer, and this is usually the case. In this instance I met the wife a little later and I asked her how things were going, and she said “oh wonderful.” And I said “oh, is Jack better, is he taking his pills?” and she said “oh no, he’s still the same, but I’m taking the pills and he rants and raves and I don’t feel a thing.”

Chemistry is a pseudo-answer to the problem; and the biggest problem is that the people for whom these things are prescribed generally prefer their sickness to a cure. Or want a cure only up to a point, and no further. It is a moral problem; they have not broken with that which is the cause of their condition. The other answer is electrical, and there are actually plans whereby babies can be controlled electrically from birth with a thermostat placed under the skull and electrical impulses used to guide them. This has been done with animals, chimpanzees, and even bulls, a case of a bull was reported recently, and some people, according to ‘Life’ magazine, in mental institutions. And this dream of mechanical, electrical control is increasingly popular. Total outward control, or outer control, by experts to obviate total inner control by ancient biological forces, this is their program.

Thus, the mental health program has these three facets; the love answer, supplying the lack through love and material means, second the chemical, and, third the electrical. What the mental health program thus calls for is the total reconditioning of man by experts in order to free him from guilt, and to make him useful to society. The scientists, thus, are deliberately attempting to play the role of God. There is actually, for them, no other answer logically. Having assumed Freud’s premise that guilt is a scientific, rather than a religious problem, and having accepted the evolutionary premises, they inevitably must play God, and we have just seen the beginning of their attempts to play God. In the next five to ten years we will see it reach staggering dimensions as they attempt total control over the mind, the body, the chemistry of man. As they are now planning to remake man even as an embryo, and dream insane dreams concerning the potentialities of their control. They are, of course, doomed to failure, because they are working against God and it is against God that they primarily offend, rather than man. But we need to face this issue squarely and conservatives need everywhere to be aware of this; either God will be God for us, or men will play God over us. There is no escaping these alternatives. If we will not have God to be our God, it is inescapable that men will assume the role of God in our lives. And so, our choice is who will be God over us?

1 Tax-exempt Foundations: Hearings Before the Special Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1954, 130.

2 Ernst L. Freud, ed., Letters of Sigmund Freud (New York: Basic Books, 1960), 50.

3 Martin Freud, Sigmund Freud, Man and Father (New York: Vanguard, 1958), 80

4 Ernest Jones, M.D. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. First Edition. Vol. 2-Years of Maturity. 3 vols. New York: Basic Books, 1955, 222.

5 Freud, S. (1951). A letter from Freud. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 107, 786–787.

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