In the current issue of Pastoral Care attention is called to the centennial of the birth of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939). The Rev. Kenneth H. Rogers, Ph.D., tells something of the life of the famous Austrian Jewish psychoanalyst and his present significance for religion. Freud was a man of deep feeling who seldom revealed it, although control was often difficult for him. He was a good husband and an exemplary father of his six children. Professionally, he began as a neurologist and achieved distinction before he turned his attention to hypnotism in 1895. “This led to the use of the method of ‘free association’ as a cathartic technique in working with neurotic patients. The great turning-point came with Freud’s intuition that ‘free association’ was not really free, but determined in every possible respect.”
The above experience led to his first fundamental principle in psychoanalysis, namely, that all mental phenomena are completely determined. All abnormal behavior was but an inhibition or distortion of this normal deterministic pattern; this was his derivative second principle.
The nature of this psychological deterministic pattern as being oriented in the libido, which is usually taken as basically a sexual drive, has been regarded as uncongenial to Christian thought. Certainly Freud himself was hostile to religion. But Dr. Rogers feels that we may distinguish between the man and his method and use the latter for religious purposes. (One cannot help feeling that the religious Freudians are betraying a “sacred” trust of their dead master.) In any case, the enlightening article is rather provoking in not explaining quite what this area of cooperation between psychoanalysis and religion (especially Christianity) is. A system developed ...1
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