Saturday, July 8, 2017

So and So Is a Heretical Such and Such: Freud Edition

I love that formulation that goes (so and so) is a heretical (such and such). The idea being that quite often figures who seem to have rejected the principles of a given entity actually are just restating them, but in a way unacceptable to the dogma or doctrine of said entity. After reading the following passage from the master essayist George Scialabba it occurred to me, as I'm sure it has to others, that Freud was a heretical Christian. Speaking of D. H. Lawrence, Scialabba wrote:
Lawrence's Unconscious is not Freud's. Freud's unconscious is a swamp, which psychoanalytic reason must drain and reclaim. Lawrence's Unconscious is a vital power: the ineffable source of life, a monarch ruling and subsuming the whole field of bodily planes, plexuses, and ganglions, completely individual but connected by quick, subtle threads to the entire cosmos. 
For the Christian, if one goes too far within, one might meet and be seduced by Satan. The inner world is something to be feared. Certainly, as for Freud, it is not a source of creativity. If Christians require the guidance of a priest or clergyman to face and defeat the threat within, Freudians require an analyst. If the tension for Christians is the tension between God and the devil, for Freudians it is the battle between the superego and the id. Freud's colleague Jung was not a heretical Christian because he denied the whole premise that there is some fundamental problem, some fallen state, that must be overcome. Neither was Emerson a heretic. Though he started at Harvard Divinity School to become a Unitarian minister (when Unitarians were still Christians) he quickly left the whole thing behind, rejecting the idea that any salvation is needed and urging people to trust themselves, deeply and intuitively, in order for goodness and creativity to flourish in our world.

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