Who Is Sigmund Freud His Thoughts on Religion Essay

Sigmund Freud was born in Moravia in 1856. His early childhood was, to say the least, somewhat unorthodox. His mother was his father’s third wife and was younger than the elder son from the first marriage. His stepbrother Philip was apparently attracted to Freud’s mother. Freud was also later to recall a famous event when he felt disgust towards his father and he was also to admit to feelings of guilt after wishing that a younger brother would die- an event which actually occurred. So, his bizarre notions of childhood sexuality may be related to his own childhood experiences.

Ernest Jones, his biographer and friend, maintained that these odd family circumstances together with Freud’s misconstruing of them facilitated Freud’s greatest discovery, the Oedipus complex. There are even suggestions that Freud himself had been sexually abused. There is little doubt that Freud was an exceptional student. However, there was no place for religion. His early interest in philosophy culminated in a study of Darwin’s theory of Evolution which led him, in turn, to study medicine.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

He continued with his philosophical studies, taking a particular interest in the works of Ludwig Feurbach who in his Essence of Christianity wrote that men have created God and heaven as a means of fulfilling their own wishes. God is merely a projection of all that is excellent in human nature. Freud is now best known for his psychoanalytical method. It has been recognized that there are similarities between psychoanalysis and the occult doctrines of the Kabbala. They both share an emphasis on male and female elements, in a fixation with numbers and in the exploration of a variety of symbols.

Some fundamental themes can be found in the Zohar or Book of splendour such as bisexuality, malevolent childhood impulses and dream interpretation. Freud was also deeply interested in witchcraft and other occult phenomena. On Saturday evenings, he would frequently play tarock – a card game associated with the Kabbala. However, he appeared to have a conscious hatred of religion – both Orthodox Judaism and Christianity. In 1937, when he was urged to flee Nazism, he responded that his real enemy was the Roman Catholic Church. Interesting enough, his childhood hero was Hanibal, the Carthaginian besieger of Rome.

Freud was also to make sure that his wife rejected Jewish Orthodoxy soon after they were married. Religion was for him nothing but psychology projected into the external world. Biologically speaking, religion is to be traced back to the small child’s helplessness. The question asked is: can we one day do without the consoling illusions of religious beliefs? Religious beliefs are based on desires that cannot be challenged and they lie in the infantile past of the individual when he sought protection from the mother and the father. Later on, our fear of death will bring back the old anxieties and the longing to be protected by the father.

This irrational origin of religion gives it the odour of sanctity but it has proved unhelpful to most people: “The question cannot but arise whether we are not overrating its necessity for mankind. ” Freud thought that if you introduce religion to children before the age of reason, it would lead to a prohibition of thought and neurotic control of impulses through repression: “Religion is patently infantile, so foreign to reality. It is painful to think that the great majority of men will never be able to rise above this view of life. ” Religion needs to be replaced by science.

Some years ago, Paul Vitz wrote a fascinating book entitled Sigmund Freud’s Christian unconscious in which he argued that Freud had a largely unconscious attraction towards Catholicism. His mother related how as a child, after he was taken by his nanny to church, “you came home and you used to preach to us about God. ” Freud described himself later like a monk in his cell offering secular pastoral counselling, he encouraged his daughter to pick flowers for Our Lady and he wrote of his longing to be in Rome for Easter. He once blurted out: “Only Catholicism protects us against Nazism. In all sincerity, he said: “I don’t think our cures can compare to those at Lourdes. ” These comments are hardly typical of an atheist. The Catholic Psychiatrist Gregory Zilboorg concluded: “Religion was for Freud a field of which he knew very little and which moreover seems to have been the very centre of his inner conflicts, conflicts that were never resolved. ”

Later down to the end of his life, he maintained his stance as an uncompromising atheist, the stance he is best known for down to the present. In “The Future of an Illusion,” he described belief in God as a collective neurosis: he called it “longing for a father. But in his last completed book, “Moses and Monotheism,” something new emerges. There Freud, without abandoning his atheism, begins to see the Jewish faith that he was born into as a source of cultural progress in the past and of personal inspiration in the present. Close to his own death, Freud started to recognize the poetry and promise in religion. WHO IS CARL JUNG AND HIS VEIWS ON RELIGION Jung was born in 1875. His father was a Lutheran Pastor and his mother came from a Spiritualist background. His childhood was lonely and unhappy and he developed a vivid fantasy life in compensation.

He was extremely observant and was concerned with his parents’ marital problems and his father’s growing lost of faith. His parents’ marital problems seemed to have stemmed from their vastly different personalities. His father was an introvert who suffered with bouts of depression and his mother was lively and jovial with an unhealthy interest in the occult. He attempted to communicate his own experiences of God to his father in an attempt to restore his father’s faith. Unfortunately he was not successful as relations between father and son were poor and because Jung himself was to lose his faith in orthodox Christianity at a very early age.

Nevertheless, he was to have a lifelong interest in the effect that religion has on people. The precocious Jung would ask himself questions like: why did God arrange things so that Adam and Eve would disobey him? Why did he command a father to kill his son? The Abraham-Isaac motif is significant in view of his own ambivalent relationship with his father. As a child he developed scruples, believing that a lot of his thought were blasphemous. He eventually concluded that God wanted him to have these thoughts just as He wanted Adam and Eve to fall.

Again, this is deeply significant as Jung was later to believe that wholeness means integrating the good and evil parts of one’s personality. Apart from his father, Jung had eight uncles who were Clergymen and it was therefore expected that he would be called to the ministry. But by then he had developed an interest in philosophy and he decided to study medicine in order to become a Psychiatrist. At medical school he developed his interest in Spiritualism He developed an interest in religion, or at least his particular version of religion.

For religion to be authentic, he felt, it must not be divorced from the unconscious. This interest led him to reading works by alchemists. For him, their obscure texts were expressions of unconscious fantasies. He wrote: “The experience of the alchemist was in a sense my experience and their world was my world. The possibility in a comparison with alchemy and the uninterrupted intellectual chain back to gnosticism gave substance to my psychology. ” This is the key to Jungian psychology, to his belief that the unconscious fantasies are universal and that they can appear at any age in a similar form.

They are, for him, the basis of religious expression. The dogma of the Trinity, the Mass and the personality of Christ may all be seen and understood as expressing essential aspects of the human psyche. If these symbols are allowed to remain unconscious we are not really whole. The process of becoming whole is known as individuation, the central idea of his psychology. In cases of patients who had lost their faith, individuation led them to create their own myths as expressed through dreams and fantasy and it enabled them to gain wholeness. What was his attitude towards Christianity?

In answering this, one must always remember that wholeness for him is only possible when we integrate the negative shadow and dark side with the more acceptable, conscious ego. In other words the pursuit of goodness cannot lead to wholeness. In his work Psychology and Alchemy Jung wrote: “Christian civilisation has proved hollow to a terrifying degree. The inner man has remained untouched. His soul is out of key with his external beliefs. ” Wholeness and not holiness is what matters. Christian civilisation has failed owing to a lack of psychological culture.

It is psychology which “opens peoples’ eyes to the real meaning of dogmas. Too few have experienced the diving image as the innermost possession of their souls. ” His ambivalence towards Christianity is seen when on the one hand he recommends his patients to return to the Church to which they belonged and on the other hand he writes: “there is no Deity, no submission or reconciliation to a Deity. The place of the Deity seems to be taken by the whole man. ” The whole man realises his brotherhood with all living things, even with inorganic matter and the cosmos itself.

The whole man must achieve three things. Firstly, he must meet with his shadow and learn to live with the more terrifying aspect of himself. Secondly, he must meet with the archetypes of the collective unconscious especially through dream work. Thirdly, if he is fortunate enough, he will in the end find that pearl of great price, the archetype of wholeness, the self. Jung claimed to have identified three stages of religious evolution. The first stage was the archaic age of the Shamans. This was followed by the ancient civilisation of prophets and priests. Then came the Christian heritage of mystics.

At every stage of religious history, all human beings share in the inner divinity, the numinous. When Jung talks about God, he is really talking about the God within, the self. He was once asked if he believed in God. He answered: “I don’t believe. I know. ” Thus Jung made an act of faith in the existence of the collective unconscious and archetypes and he interpreted Christianity in the light of his beliefs. As a example, let us examine the doctrine of the Trinity. For Jung, this doctrine is replete with psychological meaning. The Father symbolises the psyche in its original undifferentiated wholeness.

The Son represents the human psyche and the Holy Spirit the state of self-critical submission to a higher reality. For this myth to be authentic, it must be found in other cultures and Jung found similar Trinitarian ideas in the Babylonian, Egyptian and Greek mystical traditions. However, he believed in a Quaternity, the fourth person being the principle of evil. Without the opposition of satan, who is one of God’s sons, the Trinity would have remained a unity. In Jungian terms without the opposition of the shadow or the fourth person, there would be no psychic development and no actualisation of the self.

Jung came to believe that Mary became the fourth person following her Assumption. She is the necessary feminine element, the opposition of the shadow. His idea of wholeness means that God approves of evil. He wrote: “since I knew from experience that God was not offended by blasphemy, that on the contrary, he could encourage it, because he wished to evoke not only man’s bright and positive side but also his darkness and ungodliness, God in his omniscience arranged everything so that Adam and Eve would sin. God intended them to sin. ” Thus Jung blames God for the fall of Adam and Eve.

He causes them to sin because He Himself is both good and evil. In his essay on Job, Jung contends that Yahweh desired the love of mankind but behaved like a thoughtless and irritable tyrant, indifferent to human misery. Like Adam, who is mythically married to Lilith, daughter of Satan, and to Eve, so is Yahweh married to Israel and to Sophia, who compensates for Yahweh’s behaviour by showing human beings the mercy of God. Her appearance in the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel leads to a fundamental change. God transforms himself by becoming man.

Yahweh has wronged the creatures who have outdone Him and only by becoming man can he atone for His injustice. Jung appears to have lost his faith during his childhood. He wrote: “Lord Jesus Christ was to me unquestionably a man and therefore a fallible figure. ” Maintaining a tradition put forward by Gnostics, he believed that Christ is the symbolic representation of the most central archetype, the self. However, the sublime goodness of Christ means that from a psychological perspective, he lacks wholeness. Missing is the dark side of the psyche, the element of evil. Christ receives wholeness in the person of the Anti-Christ.

The Church teaches that Christ died in order to save us. For Jung, this is a misleading rationalisation for an otherwise inexplicable act of cruelty. The angry Yahweh of the Old Testament is full of guilt and is in need of atonement. Jesus dies on Calvary to expiate the sins of God the Father. To conclude by way of quotes from three eminent Psychiatrists. The Catholic Psychiatrist Doctor Rudolph Allers wrote: “For Jung, God is not a transcendent reality of whom man may achieve some knowledge by natural reason but, rather, an archetype, a basic tendency in human nature.

The idea of God and of a future life are not seen as expressing reality but as a corresponding subjective need. ” Conclusion Our analysis on Freud’s psychological theories of the nature and functions of religion has led us to come to an agreement that Sigmund Freud has many different views on religion. In his earlier years its said that he had no place for religion instead he believed the evolution theory this led him to study medicine. He also took interest in Ludwig’s theory that god and the heavens were created by man to fulfill their own wishes. At this stage of his life Freud was considered an atheist.