The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher

By Martin Gardner | Go to book overview

5 Freud, Fliess, and Emma's Nose

Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.

-- Samuel Johnson

For several decades Freud's reputation has been steadily going downhill. One reason surely has been the realization by leading feminists that Freud never rose above Victorian male chauvinism, but the main reason is much stronger. It is the growing awareness that Freud had only the flimsiest understanding of how to test a conjecture. Over and over again he tossed out brilliant guesses; ingenious, yes, but with an absence of empirical underpinning exceeded only by his dogmatic claims of certitude.

On matters for which he is given the most credit, such as the influence of repressed memories on behavior, Freud took over a commonly accepted opinion. You'll find long discussions of unconscious causes of psychosomatic ills in William James Principles of Psychology, published ten years before Freud began to invent his theories. It is where Freud departed from his colleagues that he should be judged, and it is precisely these departures that are coming to be seen, as Karl Popper and Peter Medawar have long insisted, as little more than colorful mythology projected by a neurotic genius. Even Freud's theory of dreams is now under fire, as recent research suggests that dreams may be mostly random by-products of the brain's process of clearing its circuits and that trying to recall dreams may actually harm a patient.

In a chapter of my Mathematical Carnival I tell of Freud's strange and passionate friendship with one of the giants of German crackpottery. He was a Berlin nose-and-throat doctor named Wilhelm Fliess--two years younger than Freud, handsome, charming, conceited, paranoid (he later thought Freud was trying to kill him), and utterly irresponsible. It is hard to believe, but for more than ten years he was Freud's most intimate confidant.

Fliess suffered from two major obsessions. He believed that all living processes conform to two cycles: a male cycle of 23 days, and a female cycle of 28 days. The theory became known as biorhythm, and later his

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The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Part 1 11
  • 1 - Project Alpha 13
  • 2 - Margaret Mead 19
  • 3 - Magicians in the PSI Lab 25
  • 4 - Shirley MacLaine 32
  • 5 - Freud, Fliess, and Emma's Nose 38
  • 6 - Koestler Money Down the Psi Drain? 44
  • 7 - Targ: From Puthoff to Blue 50
  • 8 - The Relevance of Belief Systems 57
  • 9 - Welcome to the Debunking Club 65
  • 10 - The Great Stone Face 72
  • 11 - From Phillips to Morris 79
  • 12 - George McCready Price 93
  • 13 - Wonders of Science 99
  • 14 - Tommy Gold 103
  • 15 - Rupert Sheldrake 109
  • 16 - The Anomalies of Chip Arp 115
  • 17 - Thoughts on Superstrings 119
  • 18 - The Third Eye 123
  • 19 - Irving Kristol and the Facts of Life 129
  • Part 2 135
  • 20 - The Great SRI Die Mystery 137
  • 21 - Perpetual Motion 145
  • 22 - Psychic Surgery 167
  • 23 - 666 and All That 170
  • 24 - D. D. Home-Sweet-Home 175
  • 25 - PK (Psycho-Krap) 179
  • 26 - Chicanery in Science 182
  • 27 - Fools' Paradigms 184
  • 28 - Look, Shirl, No Hands! 188
  • 29 - The Channeling Mania 202
  • 30 - Who Was Ray Palmer? 209
  • 31 - Prime-Time Preachers 223
  • 32 - L. Ron Hubbard 246
  • 33 - Psychic Astronomy 252
  • Name Index 265
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