Max Forrester Easterman : « Differing with Sigmund Freud »

Freud et son rapport à la politique

Freud et son rapport à la politique.

Max Forrester Eastman (1883-1969) était un écrivain socialiste américain qui patronna le mouvement de Renaissance de Harlem et sympathisa avec Léon Trotsky avant de devenir anticommuniste à la fin de sa vie (voir Wikipedia). La rencontre avec Freud eut lieu en 1927 et est rapportée dans un recueil de portraits et d’interviews intitulé Great Companions, critical memoirs of some famous friends, New York, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1942, 1959, pp. 171-190. Ce recueil comporte les portraits suivants : Old Man Scripps, Three Visits with Einstein, The Great and Small in Ernest Hemingway, My Friendship with Edna Millay, Santayana in a Convent, The Magics in Pablo Casals, Problems of Friendship with Trotsky, Differing with Sigmund Freud, Two Bertrand Russells, Charlie Chaplin: Memories and Reflections, John Dewey: My Teacher and Friend, and My First Great Companion [his mother].


On Friday, 25 March 1927, a cool early spring afternoon in the Austrian capital, the American poet, editor, and political activist Max Eastman (1883-1969) arrived at Berggasse 19 for his scheduled appointment with Professor Sigmund Freud. He was nervous, intimidated not so much by the massive old houses that lined the sloping street, but by the realization that he was finally going to see his “Father Confessor,” the man who had been of such tremendous importance for his personal and intellectual life for so long (Eastman, Heroes 263). IRMSCHER, CHRISTOPH. “‘I Regret America’: Max Eastman Meets Sigmund Freud.” Narratives of Encounters in the North Atlantic Triangle, edited by WALDEMAR ZACHARASIEWICZ and DAVID STAINES, NED – New edition ed., vol. 865, Austrian Academy of Sciences Press, 2015, pp. 211–234.


« Differing with Sigmund Freud »

I was living in Europe in the mid-twenties and had pub lished in London a book on Marxism which contained a chapter entitled, « Marx and Freud. » To my delight and excitement, Freud wrote me a letter about my book, calling it, generously, « wirklich bedeutsam, wahrscheinlich auch richtig » (« Realy important, probably also right ») and then adding – as though not to be too generous – « I enjoyed it far more than former works of yours. »

In thanking him, I said : « I’m sure you won’t mind my quoting from your letter in advertising the American edition, » and he wrote back, very stiff and caustic :

« I will thank you for not mentioning any of the remarks in my letter in public. I seem thus far to have failed to accustom myself to the American life forms. »

I replied that I had not mentioned his remarks in public, but only asked permission to do so. And I think I intimated, as mildly as possible, that the American life forms are such as to make the difference between these two things usually quite readily perceptible. It may well be, however, that I merely wish I had said this, for my dominant feeling was one of mortification rather than resentment. Freud was not only in many things my teacher, but by proxy at least, my Father Confessor. More than one of his American apostles had given me psychoanalytic advice in time of trouble. I was not in a position, except so far as honest pride de manded it, to sass him back.

It all sharpened in me a long-cherished desire to set eyes on the great man. I knew I had a certain claim to his atten tion, for as a result of one of my sessions with his American apostle, Dr. Smith Ely Jelliffe, I had studied Freud’s works very thoroughly and published, in Everybody’s Magazine in 1915, the first popular exposition of his theories and methods of healing. Thus, happening to be in Vienna in 1926, I sent a note around and asked if I might call.

Bergasse 19 was a big roomy house full of books and pic tures, the whole mezzanine floor padded with those thick rich rugs in which your feet sink like a camel’s in the sand. I was not surprised to see hanging beside Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson, without which no doctor’s office would be recognizable, a picture of The Nightmare – a horrid mon ster with a semi-evil laugh or leer, squatting upon a sleep ing maiden’s naked breast. Freud’s early specialty had been anatomy, and he had in him the hard scientific curiosity suggested by Rembrandt’s picture. But then he had too, in my belief, a streak of something closely akin to medieval superstition. He liked to talk about « the Unconscious » personifying the mere absence o a quality – and that, the quality of awareness! – and making it into a scheming de mon for which anatomy certainly finds no place. Freud’s discovery that impulses suppressed out of our thoughts can continue to control those thoughts, both waking and sleep ing, and also our actions and bodily conditions, was cer tainly a major event in the history of science. But what a lot of purely literary mythology he built around it! Mental healing always did and always will run off into magic.

With such thoughts I sat there whetting my curiosity un til the door opened and he came in.

Well – he was smaller than I thought, and slender- limbed, and more feminine. I have mentioned niy surprise at the f eminineness of all the great men I have met. Genius is a nervous phenomenon and, except for the steam-roller variety that has come to the front in the totalitarian states, it involves delicacy. An operation had altered Freud’s fea tures a trifle when I met him, so that his nose seemed flatter than I expected and bent slightly to one side. It made him, when he threw his head clear back and laughed softly, as he frequently did, seem quaint and gnomelike. His voice was a little thin too, as though he were purposely holding back half his breath in order to be mischievous.

« What did you want? » he said in English as we shook hands.

« Not a thing, » I said. « I just wanted to look you over. »

« You want to quote my commendation of your book. But why should I support you? Can’t you stand up on your own legs? »

« I’m trying to, » I said. « And that isn’t what brought me here at all. Still, I do wonder why, if you think I got it right about you and Marx, you want to make a secret of it. »

He made no answer and was not troubled by the silence this caused. It was a hard silence, a sort of weapon in his hand, and I made it worse by saying:

« There is one thing I always wanted to ask you. I don’t see why you talk about unconsciousness as though it were a thing. The only thing there, when we are unconscious, is our brain and body. Wouldn’t it clarify matters if you stopped using the noun and stuck to the adjective – instead of saying ‘the Unconscious,’ say ‘unconscious brain states’? »

« Well, haven’t you read our literature? » he said tartly. « The Unconscious is not a thing, but a concept. It is a con cept that we find indispensable in the clinic. »

« It is a dangerous concept, » I said, « because people in evitably think of it as a thing. »

« Well, then, let them correct their thinking! »

It wasn’t very pleasant, and I tried to say with a smile: « You’re perfectly sure you’re not resurrecting the soul? »

« No, there’s no soul, » he said. « There’s only a concept which those of us engaged in practical work find indispen sable.

« Perhaps you’re a behaviorist, » he went on. « According to your John B. Watson, even consciousness doesn’t exist. But that’s just silly. That’s nonsense. Consciousness exists quite obviously and everywhere – except in America. »

He enjoyed that crack at America so much that he began to laugh and be genial. In fact, he began to lecture me in a fatherly way about the relations between the psychic and the physical. He talked fluently, and I am a good listener, and we were soon very friendly.

« You mustn’t confuse the psychic with the conscious, » he said. « My old psychology teacher here in Vienna, Theo dore Lipps, used to warn us against that. Psychic entities are not necessarily conscious. »

My answer, of course, was: « Then the unconscious is not merely a concept after all, but a thing, an ‘entity/ just as I thought! »

However, I did not make this answer until I got home and was putting down our conversation in a notebook. 1 was too far on the underside of my inferiority complex to catch a great man up like that. Perhaps it is just as well, for the contradiction, left standing, is very neat and pretty. It shows Freud in the very act of being both a scientist and a deinonologist. Freud would not let his discoveries be a contribution to psychology. They had to be psychology – « Freud’s psychology. » And there had to be quite a little of the infallibility of the Pope in his pronunciamentos.

He had now become so genial, however, that he even said a good word for America-namely, that she had produced John Dewey.

« John Dewey is one of the few men in the world » he said, « for whom I have a high regard. »

I said that I had taught and studied under Dewey at Columbia, and thought very highly of him too, though the World War had divided us. « The war was a watershed in America. »

That remark interested him, and he kept returning to it afterward. Indeed, he had a way of calling the conversation back to where it had been going, not letting it get lost, that reminded me of Plato’s Socrates.

For instance, I said that the war was a watershed in America, dividing radicals from liberals, but not in Europe because in Europe everybody was in it whether he wanted to be or not.

« Officially, » he put in with a sly inflection. And then he exclaimed: « You should not have gone into the war at all. Your Woodrow Wilson was the silliest fool of the century, if not of all centuries. »

He paused for my answer, which got stuck accidentally in my throat.

« And he was also probably one of the biggest criminals – unconsciously, I am quite sure. »

I said that Woodrow Wilson’s literary style was a perfect instrument of self-deception, and that delighted him. He asked me if I had read The Story of a Style, a psycho analytic character reading of Wilson on the basis o the relative predominance of certain types of words in his speeches. I said I had, and we agreed in praising the in genuity of its author, William Bayard Hale. We were a long way from my remark about the watershed, but Freud called me back to it.

« I would like you to say some more about that watershed business, » he said.

« Well, take Dewey, for instance. He went over on the war side, and wrote a book against Germany, and it seemed for a time to change his whole way of thinking. Most of our intellectual leaders who did that stopped thinking al together. »

« Why? » Freud asked.

« You know why people stop thinking, » I said. « It’s be cause their thoughts would lead them where they don’t want to go. »

That amused him again, and the whole of his gentleness came back, including the delighted little crinkles at the corners of his eyes. He put his head way back finally and laughed like a child. Sometimes a child at play reminds you of an odd little old man; there was something of that odd little old man in Freud’s ways. He waggled his head and hands about all the time, looking up at the ceiling and closing his eyes, or making funny little pouts and wry faces, when he was trying to think of a word or an idea. I never ceased feeling that underneath it all was an obdurate hard cranky streak, but I also never ceased feeling its great charm.

He was curious about the support I gave to the Russian Bolsheviks.

« You believe in liberty, » he said, « and there you get just the opposite. »

I gave him our glib explanation: the class dictatorship is transitional – a method of moving toward a more real and universal liberty.

He made gestures like a man fighting with cobwebs or doing the Australian crawl.

« That is all up in the air, » he said. « People who are go ing to produce liberty some time in the future are just the same for me as people who are going to have it ready for you in the celestial paradise. I live in this real world right here. This is the only world I am interested in. »

I told him the very thing I admired about Lenin was his, way of taking the real world exactly as it is, and yet trying to do something with it.

« The Bolsheviks, » I said, « have a hypothesis and they’re trying it out. »

That appealed to the scientist in him, and he became both serious and mild.

« It is an intensely interesting experiment, » he said. « Really, it’s all terra incognita to me. I don’t know any thing about it. »

« What are you politically? » I asked. « Politically I am just nothing. » He settled down in his chair and squinted at me. « What are you going to do when you get back to that America of yours? » he asked

« What makes you hate America so? » I queried. « Hate America? » he said. « I don’t hate America, I regret it! »

He threw back his head again and laughed hilariously. « I regret that Columbus ever discovered it! » I laughed with him, and rather egged him on, no doubt, for I am not touchy about our national faults.

« America, » he went on, « is a bad experiment conducted by Providence. At least, I think it must have been Provi dence. I at least should hate to be held responsible for it. » More laughter, and then I asked: « In what way bad? » « Oh, the prudery, the hypocrisy, the national lack of in dependence! There is no independent thinking in Amer ica, is there? »

I said there was a new and lively spirit among young people.

« Mostly among Jews, isn’t it? »

« The Jews are not so free from prudery and hypocrisy, » I replied.

He seemed to change the subject, « You didn’t answer my question; what are you going to do when you get home? Have you any definite plans? »

« None except that I am going to write. »

« I’ll tell you what I want you to do. I want you to go home and write a book on America, and I’ll tell you what to call it. Misgeburt – What is that word in English? »

« Abortion? »

« No, not abortion. »

« Monster? »

« Well, that will do. You write a book about the mon strous thing that America turned out to be… » He paused. « The word is ‘miscarriage. » The Miscarriage of American Civilization – that shall be the title of your book. You will find out the causes and tell the truth about the whole awful catastrophe. »

He was standing up now.

« That book will make you immortal. You may not be able to live in America any more, but you could go and live very happily somewhere else! »

I had risen too, and he extended his hand.

« Now I want to see that next book of yours without fail. So please remember to send it to me, and I’ll read it with happy memories of this conversation. . . . »

A very gracious dismissal! How suave and charming-on the face of it

As I went down the steps, my thoughts recurred to his similarly gracious letter about my book: « Really impor tant; probably also correct. … I enjoyed it far more than former works of yours! »

Are those – I thought – the European life forms? Is Freud a little vain and cranky with too much peering into other people’s complexes? Is it perhaps our rather hard- headed skepticism about some of the more mythological of his reported discoveries in « the Unconscious » that caused this extreme feeling? His American friend and translator, Dr. A. A. Brill, told me that this feeling dated back to his visit to this country in 1909 and the meager recognition he received from scientific circles then. It seemed a strange thing for an admiring disciple of Freud to say so casually and calmly. For was it not to deliver mankind from just that kind of displaced emotion that this hero of self-knowl edge was born into the world?


That visit in Vienna was but an incident in a one-way companionship which had begun with a deep plunge into Freud’s books in 1914 and has never ended. When my ac count of it first appeared, I received a letter from Freud’s sister, Anna Bernays, saying very politely that although I had met her brother, it was evident I did not know him. On the other hand, two distinguished psychoanalysts, one a former close colleague of the master, congratulated me on the justness of the impression I had gathered so quickly. The contrast intrigued me, and when another close col league, Dr. Ernest Jones, began to publish his intimate biography, I seized eagerly the opportunity to know Freud a little better. I wanted especially to continue our argu ment about the concept of the Unconscious.

So far as concerns Freud’s charm and the « obdurate hard cranky streak » I felt underlying it, Dr. Jones bore me out, I thought, completely. Freud’s confession, quoted by Dr. Jones on page 8 of the first volume, sounded « cranky » enough in all conscience: « An intimate friend and a hated enemy have always been indispensable to my emotional life; I have always been able to create them anew, and not infrequently . . . friend and enemy have coincided in the same person. , . . » As for Freud’s passion against America, that proved only more obdurate on better acquaintance, and more morbidly bitter, than I had realized in our con versation. To the end of his days according to Dr. Jones or at least until it moved down and became recognized as mucous colitis he used to describe his intestinal disorder as « my American indigestion. » His nephew, Edward L. Bernays, who is also the nephew of Freud’s wife, gave me an explanation of this anti-American fixation which differs somewhat from that of Dr Brill. He said that William James attended those pioneer lectures at Clark University in 1909, and being intrigued both by Freud and his ideas, invited him up to his summer camp in the Adirondacks. To entertain the distinguished guest, they all went out in the woods and cooked a beefsteak dinner, picnic fashion, over an open fire. That dinner was the awful beginning o Freud’s indigestion, according to Bernays, and of his anti- Americanism.

« Why they’re still savages over there, » he grumbled, « they cook their food on heated stones out in the woods! »

As to Freud’s equivocation about the concept of « the Unconscious, » which I thought revealed so neatly the conflict in him between the scientist and the mythmaker: that too received illumination as I got better acquainted with him. Dr. Jones himself is somewhat perturbed by criticisms like mine, and he answers them by saying that if the critics would read all of Freud’s writings on the Un conscious, they would find their objections refuted. So I went out and bought Freud’s Collected Papers and read all that he had to say on the Unconscious, as well as many fas cinating things about related subjects. To my surprise I found, in his principal essay on the Unconscious, the very same unmediated leap from an ah ob conception to an ex istent entity that had turned up in our conversation.

I also found out, in those Collected Papers, that while in sisting that a mental element when absent from conscious ness does exist as a psychic entity, Freud confessed that he had not the slightest idea what sort of an entity it was. To put it in his own language: « In what shape it may have existed, while present in the mind and latent in conscious ness, we have no means of guessing. » What does he gain then, as a scientist, by denying the quite obvious assump tion that it exists « as a physical disposition for the recur rence of the same psychical phenomenon*? Freud himself asks the question, and his answer is that this denies to psy chology « the right to account for its most common facts, such as memory, by its own means. » But again, what does he gain, as a scientist, by erecting a barrier between psy chology and the physiology of the brain? It is not impor tant to psychology, or any other science, that its facts be explained « by its own means, » but by the means which best explain them. Freud’s insistence that there is causal determinism in the psychical as well as the physical world – by which he can only mean independently of the physi- cal world – is adapted to make untrained minds think they are being very scientific, but it is a roadblock on the path of biological psychology.

These papers left me convinced that it is not the scientist in Freud but an artist a demonological poet who insists on peopling an underworld with masked demons who move about in the unlocal dark, controlling our thoughts and the action of our bodies; the id, the ego, the superego, the censor, the death-wish, the castration complex, the Oedipus complex, etc. We « have no means of guessing » what those creatures are, but they are endowed both with ideas and intentions, and behave at times almost exactly like little ghouls or demons. They resist, elude, deceive, suppress, kowtow to, or overcome one another in a region which has no existence anywhere on the real earth, and can have none, for the very name of it, « unconscious mental action » is a contradiction in terms. Brain action can be unconscious, and largely is, but to be mind and to be un conscious is, if words are to have genuine meaning, a con tradiction in terms.

Although in that esoteric paper Freud says we cannot guess « in what shape » the psychic contents o the Uncon scious exist, it can hardly be doubted that what most Freudians think of when they speak of « the Unconscious, » is another conscious mind lurking beneath, or behind, or somewhere in the vicinity of, the one they are familiar with. Freud himself compared a wishful idea in the Un conscious to « a demon striving not to come to the light of day, because he knows that will be his end/’ And indeed it is hard to make real to oneself, except in such terms, the existence of a « wish » splurging around, bodiless, unlocal- ized, inside of something, but that something defined only by a negative attribute. Certain things may no doubt be accomplished with these demonological concepts, if they are regarded as merely handy ways of talking. How far Freud was from so regarding them is revealed in his article on psychoanalysis in the Encyclopedia Britannica, where he remarks that « the future will probably attribute far greater importance to psychoanalysis as the science of the Unconscious than as a therapeutic procedure/’

I think the future will take exactly the opposite course, if it is not already doing so. Notwithstanding his vital and tremendous contributions to psychology, we shall go very wrong if we take Freud for the « true man of science » of Dr. Jones’ adoring portrait. Science, to be sure, is no super nal enterprise; it is nothing but the skilled, persistent, and appropriate use of the mind, and the stores of human knowledge, about any problem. It does, however, require at least three qualifications in the scientist: the discipline of suspended judgment, a mastery of the knowledge rele vant to his problem, a sustained passion for verification, Freud had none of these qualifications. He jumped to con clusions with the agility of a trained athlete. He was (to quote Dr. Jones) « ill-informed in the field of contemporary psychology and seems to have derived only from hearsay any knowledge he may have had of it » – he did not even sense, for instance, the elementary distinction between idea and perception. He had a temperamental distaste for ex periment, and no impulse at all toward verification. The idea of submitting his « insights, » his « intuitions, » his « ex plorations of the unconscious, » to confirmation by some one else seems to have been particularly alien to his intensely emotional and recklessly inventive mind. His atti tude toward other people’s findings may be inferred from the ferocious demand he made of his sweetheart that she join him in hating her brother. He would break off his en gagement, he threatened, if this happy consensus of opin ion was not attained.

To me he was less like Newton, or Darwin, or any of the great men of science, than like Paracelsus – a man who made significant contributions to science, but was by na ture given to infatuation with magical ideas and causes. Freud’s contributions were, to be sure, immeasurably greater than those of Paracelsus, but there is a similar ad mixture of midnight fabrication in them. Way back in the eighties when he was still working in brain anatomy, Freud got seized with the notion that cocaine, then newly dis covered, was a « magic substance » – the phrase is Dr. Jones’ – which would not only cure all sorts of ills, including morphine addiction, but would increase a healthy man’s nervous and muscular strength without any bad effects, and without habit formation. He reached this conclusion « experientally » – again a word from Dr. Jones – that is, on the basis of his own experience. While enamored of this substance, and convinced it would make him world famous and solve his dire financial troubles, he hit upon the idea that, besides all these interior miracles, cocaine might pos sibly be useful in eye troubles as a local anesthetic. He made this remark to a colleague, but did not himself bother – being all wrapped up in the internal miracles he was go ing to accomplish – to make the tiny experiment indicated. The colleague made the experiment and became world famous, while Freud, clinging to his unverified belief in the life-enhancing properties of his wonder-drug, damaged his reputation by killing a patient with an overdose of it.

This inclination to believe in occult hunches instead of trying out plausible hypotheses, is illustrated time and again in Dr. Jones’ account of Freud’s development. Throughout the ten years when he made his « Great Dis coveries, » Freud was in an almost pathological rapture of admiration for a quack philosopher in Berlin, a thorough going phoney, who believed in numerology, and professed to have found the solution of all life’s problems in the ratio between the numbers 28 and 23, which he derived in dif ferent ways from the periodicity in the sexual life of women. By manipulating these numbers, this Dr. Fliess professed to explain the inner nature of almost everything, not omitting the solar system and the interstellar spaces. From the age of thirty-nine until he was fifty years old, Freud accepted and believed in this man’s shamanistic lu cubrations, describing them as « your beautiful and sure biological discoveries, » and Fliess himself as « the Keppler of biology. »

Dr. Jones quite frankly describes Freud’s condition dur ing these years of the Great Discoveries as a psychoneurosis which is all right, most of us have a touch of that but that Freud’s psychoneurosis expressed itself in an avid dis position to swallow grandiose and uninvestigated occult beliefs^ is a point whose significance escapes him.

Dr. Jones is contemptuous of Joseph Breuer, Freud’s collaborator in the early Studies in Hysteria., for having got off the Freudian bandwagon as soon thereafter as possible. I do not know whether Breuer ever said what he thought of Freud, but what Freud said about Breuer pretty well tells the story: « . . . he always knows of three candidates for one truth and abominates every generalization as a piece of arrogance. »

The principal « one truth » that Freud was believing in at the time when Breuer got off was that all hysterias are caused by the sexual seduction of an innocent child by an adult. Freud even deduced the criminality of his own father from this obviously improbable generalization. After clinging to it for over four years, he did begin to feel some doubts, but one little piece of « experiental » evidence re assured him. I quote Dr. Jones:

« When, finally, he had a dream about his American niece, Hella, which he had to interpret as covering a sex ual wish towards his eldest daughter, he felt he had per sonal firsthand evidence of the correctness of his theory. »

If this is « science, » where shall we turn for organized common sense!

Another generalization to which Freud leaped from a single experience was that he had been all wrong about hysterical disorders they are not caused by sexual assaults in childhood; those are only imagined by the hysteric. The real, but still universal, cause is the « Oedipus Complex » in the child. The « experiental » evidence in this case was an item in Freud’s psychoanalysis of himself. Again I quote Dr. Jones:

« He had discovered in himself the passion for his mother and Jealousy of his father; he fe It sure that this was a gen eral human characteristic and that from it one could understand the powerful effect of the Oedipus legend. Evi- dently his mind was now working at full speed, and we may even speak of swift intuitions. »

We may indeed, and I inserted the italics because I think it is well to remember how much empirical basis there was for Freud’s original sureness about the universality of the Oedipus Complex, one of his most fixed and cher ished obsessions. « In closing this study I want to state that the beginnings of religion, ethics, society and art meet in the Oedipus Complex. » Thus, in Totem and Taboo, he sweeps pretty nearly every human thing there is into the lap of this generalization about which he had so suddenly felt sure.

Another example of Freud’s easy grace in jumping to conclusions is provided by Dr. Jones in these words:

« One day a patient suddenly threw her arms around his neck, an unexpected contretemps, fortunately remedied by the entrance of a servant. From then on he understood that the peculiar relationship so effective therapeutically [the « transference »] had an erotic basis. »

When Freud first came out with his proclamation that sex traumas lie at the bottom of all neurotic disorders, it was generally inferred that his own sexual constitution must be a little abnormal, and I think this inference was correct. The abnormality, however, was not in the direc tion of lechery and loose living, but just the contrary. Freud was a prude and a puritan, a fanatical monogamist, not sexy by nature, and so « chaste » in speech and conduct that he « would have been out of place in the usual club room, » He was, in short, the kind of man to be shocked into a new theory of therapeutics by a girl who jumps up unexpectedly and throws her arms around his neck. I sur mise that it was this state of shock, the astonishment of a natural-born puritan at finding out how much frank and raw sexuality there is in the world, which led Freud to « proclaim » – again a word from Dr. Jones – that extreme and improbable « One Truth » about the sexual seduction of young children which brought him so much obloquy and pain.

« When he got hold of a simple but significant fact, he would feel and know [sic] that it was an example of some thing general and universal and the idea of collecting statistics on the matter was quite alien to him . . . that is the way the mind of a genius works. »

So speaks his worshipful disciple, and we can only say: Yes, but a genius for what? Not scientific investigation cer tainly. And not literature, either, although Freud was a gifted writer. Freud himself in a humble moment invented a name for his genius which, had Dr. Jones accepted it, would have made his praise of Freud much wiser than it was:

« I am not really a man of science, not an observer, not an experimenter, and not a thinker. I am nothing but by temperament a conquistador an adventurer, if you want to translate the word with the curiosity, the boldness and the tenacity that belongs to that type of being. »

It was a conquistador, truly, rather than a man of science, who explored this darkest Africa of the Uncon scious*, a conquistador and a poet. For the progress of scientific good sense, it seems to me as important to exor cise the faceless demons with which he peopled this un imaginable region, as to recognize his epoch-making con tributions to science. But I hope it will not be imagined that a closer acquaintance has diminished my sense of the grandeur of those contributions. Freud played the major part in making psychology dynamic, bringing the wish into it, the instinctive drive, in place of the old unlifelike tale of stimulus and reaction, association and dissociation. And his discovery that these drives, when denied fulfillment and repressed out of consciousness, may take effect in hysterias, dreams, neurotic symptoms, etc., has given a new look to the whole study of mankind by man. His place among the giants of the history of knowledge is secure. It is not nec essary to pretend that he explored a new world and a new order of being, neither mind nor matter.


* It should not be thought that Freud invented this dark continent. The idea of it was familiar to him, and to all German intellectuals, in the metaphysics of Eduard von Hoffman, whose remarkable book, The Philosophy of the Unconscious, published in 1859, went through eleven editions dur ing Freud’s life. Von Hoffman did not claim to have explored this region, but arrived by abstract reasoning at a knowledge of what was to be found tibere: will and intellect, namely, in a state of conflict.


Ce contenu a été publié dans Sur Freud, avec comme mot(s)-clé(s) , , , , , , . Vous pouvez le mettre en favoris avec ce permalien.

Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse de messagerie ne sera pas publiée. Les champs obligatoires sont indiqués avec *

Merci de taper les caractères de l'image Captcha dans le champ

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Ce site utilise Akismet pour réduire les indésirables. En savoir plus sur comment les données de vos commentaires sont utilisées.