Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition

Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition

Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition

Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition

Excerpt

The purpose of this essay is to explore an hypothesis concerning the intellectual antecedents of Freudian psychoanalysis. From the point of view of the history of ideas, psychoanalysis presents a special problem. Movements of thought of the stature of psychoanalysis usually have prominent antecedents in the history of man's thought. Although there are giants in every great movement of thought, rarely do their contributions seem to arise full-blown, like psychoanalysis, as the work of a single person.

Freud is sometimes viewed as an inexplicable genius who burst upon the world, left his profound and complicated message, and departed. In seeking to understand the intellectual history of psychoanalysis one can find many features of Freud's thought in the history of ideas in the main streams of Western civilization. Yet the basic mood of psychoanalysis is so radically different from all these other modes of thought, that the question of its origins is still unsatisfactorily answered.

The hypothesis of this essay is that a full appreciation of the development of psychoanalysis is essentially incomplete unless it be viewed against the history of Judaism, and particularly against the history of Jewish mystical thought. This does not mean that we will be able to read psychoanalytic propositions directly out of Jewish mystical expressions. Our point is rather that Freud's repeated affirmation of his Jewish identity had greater significance for the development of psychoanalysis than is usually recognized. He was a participant in the struggles and the issues of Jewish mysticism; and . . .

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