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Fromm is far more deeply rooted in the Bible than in Rabbinics or in the
general Jewish hermeneutics in which Fromm certainly has a place. To understand
Fromm's more immediate motives or models for Bible interpretation, we must
study not so much Fromm's Jewish education as his psychoanalytic training
in the Freudian tradition. One place to begin that is with his Sigmund Freud's
Whereas Freud is not at all ambivalent in his pronouncements
that God is but a projection of the father-image upon the cosmos, and that
the therapeutic science of psychoanalysis is all that the human soul really
needs, Fromm's writings on religion are a network of contradictions and ambivalences.
On the one hand, Fromm can observe that the worship of God is an attempt
to get in touch with a part of ourselves we have lost through projection.
 On the other hand, Fromm can assert that God has become an idol of words,
phases, and doctrines,  so suggesting that there may be an objective
divine reality outside of man. And yet, Fromm ends You Shall Be As Gods by
describing an "x-reality," a kind of godless God-feeling, a non-theistic
"religious attitude" that can save even the non-theist from the materialistic
idolatries of modern man.
In Escape From Authority: The Perspectives
of Erich Fromm (1961), John Schaar, Fromm's most effective critic, points
to the weaknesses in Fromm's views of religion and ethics. Schaar notes that
Fromm's psychoanalytic philosophy shuns authority with an almost obsessive
aversion, and tells people with an equally obsessive temerity that they can
achieve perfection. This is not the place to cite the many difficulties that
emerge from Fromm's interpretation of Marxism or of social and economic conditions;
Schaar is very helpful on these issues. Suffice it to say that the same ratio
of insights and distortions that Fromm brings to the Bible may be found in
his explanation of other texts and of other social and historical traditions.
Like every intellectual, Fromm was guilty of all kinds of projections and
verbal games. And like every genius whose life is directed toward service
to humanity, he bequeathed both break-throughs and culs-de-sac.
this respect Fromm was no different from Freud. Yet his approach to the Bible
and to rabbinic tradition was part of the critical dialectic with Freudian
doctrine in which he openly engaged in many of his works, especially The
Forgotten Language, where he modified Freud's view of dreams, and in The
Crisis of Psychoanalysis (1970), where he argues against Freud's understanding
of the so-called "Oedipal Complex." Despite his protests against authority,
Fromm's bible, like that of all neo-Freudian analysts, was the complete works
of Freud. Fromm's work must therefore be regarded as a hermeneutic in the
Freudian tradition that is colored and even distinguished by immersion in
In Sigmund Freud's Mission, Freud's "Oedipus Complex"
is questioned, re-interpreted, and re-named the "Joseph Complex."  (Fromm
differs from Freud in that he regards competitiveness, and not incest-wishes,
as the basic cause of normal sibling rivalry.) In this re-interpretation,
we see that Fromm actually employs Freud's original text as a pious preacher
would utilize the Bible: He cites the original, giving it all due deference.
Only then does he recast the original Freudian mythos into what he regards
as more appropriate biblical images.