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It appeared in English translation the same year. The mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote that Freud's suggestion that Moses was an Egyptian "delivered a shock to many of his admirers". According to Campbell, Freud's proposal was widely attacked, "both with learning and without.

Judaism Terminable and Interminable

The philosopher Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen and the psychologist Sonu Shamdasani write that in Moses and Monotheism Freud applied to history "the same method of interpretation that he used in the privacy of his office to 'reconstruct' his patients' forgotten and repressed memories. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Moses and Monotheism | work by Freud |

May Freud's Moses: Terminable and Interminable. Yale University Press. The first person who came to see him at his house on Elsworthy Road was his neighbor, a Jewish scholar named Abraham Yahuda.

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  • Yahuda had gotten wind of the contents of the volume and had come to beseech Freud not to publish. 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. 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. 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. Freud argues that taking God into the mind enriches the individual immeasurably.

    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. 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. 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.

    Moses and monotheism

    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.

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    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. Moses hung on to his convictions — much as Freud aspired to do.

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    View all New York Times newsletters. Though Freud hoped that mankind would pass beyond religion, he surely took inspiration from the story of Moses, a figure with whom he had been fascinated for many years. He published his first essay on the prophet in Freud wanted to lead people, and he wanted to make conceptual innovations that had staying power and strength: for this there could be no higher exemplar than the prophet. 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.

    Schopenhauer, to whom both Nietzsche and Freud were deeply indebted, was himself an unbeliever, as well as being an unrelenting pessimist. To Schopenhauer, life was pain, grief, sorrow and little else.