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Continued from page 4

Fromm notes in Sigmund Freud's Mission that Freud saw himself as a Moses figure. As evidence, he cites Freud's famous letter to Jung to the effect that the latter was to be his Joshua. Whether or not Freud saw himself as Moses is not the issue. (Indeed, in an incisive study, Marthe Robert argues that Freud did not think of himself as Moses, but rather felt intimidated by Michelangelo's statue of Moses, which represented to him the father and the people with whom he had acted in a petty manner. Mine. Robert posits that, if anything, Freud regarded himself as a Joseph-figure, as an "interpreter of dreams.") [30] What matters is that Fromm believed that Freud regarded himself as a Moses.

In order to draw conclusions about the significance of Fromm's orientation, we must pause and consider what traditions Freud actually inspired and, more important still, how Freud, whether consciously or subconsciously, prompted others to see him.

If Freud was a Moses, he was a Moses visited by revelations about human beings, and not by the Divine Word. He claimed as his source of authority that psychoanalysis was a "science." Indeed, some critics observed that Freud shunned mysticism and spiritualism precisely because he did not want psychoanalysis to endanger its respectability as a science. [31]

Yet Freud would not or could not shun religious sources. He decided, however, to approach the Bible as though it were a patient on his couch. Thus, his infamous work, Moses and Monotheism: Three Essays (1939), is an almost chatty excursus on a neurotic Bible. He attempts philological studies of words, [32] he posits obscure Egyptian origins in pentateuchal beliefs and practices, [33] he editorializes on how religion is a neurosis of humanity. [34] He even provides a good, old fashioned attack on the talmudists in the style of the New Testament scholars of his day. [35] It is only at a few junctures in the book that he actually settles down to posing the fantastic theories that Moses was an Egyptian, that his god was the sun-disc deity of short-lived Egyptian "monotheism," and that the Israelites, out of fear of biological or cultural castration, murdered Moses and worked out their sense of revulsion and guilt over this crime by writing the Bible.

The attempts to explain Freud's perverse infatuation with Moses are many. Philip Rieff declares that "Freud was his own ideal Jew ... a fantasy Moses, lonely and estranged as he leads the large remainder of himself...from one small oasis of rational insight to another, with no promises of a promised land this time around." [36] Rieff also suggests that Freud saw himself as a latter-day Joseph. [37] Paul Ricoeur sees through this romanticized view of the Freudian self-image, however. He observes, like Marthe Robert, that:

Moses stood as a father image for Freud himself, the same image he had already encountered at the time of "The Moses of Michelangelo"; this Moses had to be glorified as an esthetic fantasy and liquidated as a religious fantasy. One can guess how much it cost Freud to run counter to Jewish pride at the very moment when the storm of Nazi persecution was breaking out by publishing Moses and Monotheism, when his books were being burned and his publishing house ruined, and when he himself had to flee Vienna and take refuge in London: all this must have been a terrible "work of mourning" for Freud the man. [38]

continued ...

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