The mystical roots of psychoanalytic theory
Abstract This paper examines the similarities and differences between ideas deriving from Rabbinic and mystical Judaism and psychoanalytic concepts. It will present material both from the Talmud and the Kabbalah (particularly the Zohar and Lurianic Kabbalistic writings). While not arguing necessarily for any historical continuity itexplores how Jewish ideas provide a deep structure underlying psychoanalytic thought. Kabbalah and psychanalysis share an emphasis on restitution. For Kabbalists it is the soul which is reconstituted and for psychoanalysts the self. Both aim to explore the conscious and unconscious aspects of existence, the obvious and the esoteric. The similarities between Freud and Klein’s ideas and Kabbalistic themesare discussed. Key words: Cultural psychiatry, Jewish culture , history of psychiatry WCPRR Jul/Oct 2006: 133-137. © 2006 WACP ISSN: 1932-6270
Is psychoanalysis a ‘Jewish science’? Did Jewish themes influence the development of psychoanalytic theory? These issues have raised much debate among both psychoanalysts and medical historians (Ostow, 1982; Ellemberger, 1970; Bettelheim, 1983; Bakan,1965; Berke, 1996). The relation between Judaism and psychoanalysis has been discussed by a number of authors who draw parallels between ideas deriving from the Talmud and Jewish mystical texts and the theories of psychoanalysis. Bettelheim (1983) argues for the centrality of the soul in Freud’s thinking. According to him it is erroneous or inadequate translations of Freud’s writings along with theneed for scientific respectability which have distorted an understanding of Freud’s intentions such that the notion of the soul has become secularised in psychoanalysis. Cooper (1996) points out the relation between the Rabbinic concepts of Yetzer Tov (good inclination) and Yetzer hara (bad inclination) to the psychoanalytic idea of the ego and id. Others have discussed the similarities betweenthe Rebbe-Hasid relationship and the psychoanalyst client relationship (Woocher, 1978; Safier 1978). Although all of these topics great interest they will not be discussed further. Here we specifically examine the ways in which Freud and Klein were influenced by Jewish mystical concepts. Freud and Klein: their Jewish roots Born in Moravia in 1856 Freud spent most of his life in Vienna. Both hisparents derived from Galicia, an area which was highly influenced by Hasidism. Freud did knowledge that his father Jakob came from a Hasidic environment and he himself was familiar with mystical texts. We know that he had great interest in the work of Rabbi Chiam Vital, the renowned sixteenth Kabbalist and principle disciple of Rabbi Isaac Luria (the Ari) and had many books on Judaica and Kabbalah inhis library. Although he rejected the ritualistic aspects of Judaism vigorously, possibly on account of his discomfort with Jewish marginality, for Freud his interest in Judaism _________________
Correspondence to: Simon Dein, MD. University College London The Derwent Centre Princess Alexandra Hospital. Harlow, Essex, UK, CM20 1QX
Received July 17, 2006. Accepted September 7,2006.
. DEIN, S.
lay in both a common identity and a readiness to stand up to a common enemy, in this particular case anti-Semitism. Nevertheless he still saw Judaism as especially congenial to psychoanalysis (Ostow, 1982). Melanie Klein was born in Vienna in 1882 and she is considered by many to be Freud’s foremost follower. Her father came from an orthodox Jewish family and her mother wasthe daughter of a Rabbi. Although she herself was not observant or religious in adult life, she did have a Jewish upbringing and maintained a particular fondness for Yon Kippur (the day of atonement). Freud’s interest in mythology Freud implied in his writings that although he was familiar with classical Greece and Rome, he knew almost nothing about Jewish history. This however is unlikely to...
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