To answer the set question I will explore Freud’s Totem and Taboo looking at his theory of the primal horde and Oedipus complex and his theory on religion as an illusion. Also looking at Freud’s theory that religion is unhealthy psychologically. To conclude I will explore his relationship with Jung and the affect his criticism of Freud’s theory had on their professional collaboration.
Freud’s interpretation of the totem as representing the father of the tribe returns again to Freud’s problems with his own father. He approaches his Totem and Taboo theory from entirely a patriarchal stance ignoring the fact that his case ‘Little Hans’ fear was actually that his mother would disappear as she had often threatened this when the child misbehaved. (Storr, 1989, 108).
The belief that the origin of religion is benevolent to the father son relationship (Palmer, 1997, 30) returns us to his Oedipus complex. The primal horde that is dominated by a single father like male who takes all the women of the tribe and banishes his younger male rivals preventing incest and encouraging sexual ties outside the group. Again as in Freud’s Oedipus complex, the primary male is threatened by the younger males thus eliminating them from the group, this causes resentment within the younger males who then plot to murder the patriarch thus ending the primal horde. Freud states that as a result of guilt the younger males give reverence to the slaughtered father and as Freud sees it this is the very origin of religion. He also sees this as the origin of the taboo of incest.
Storr (1989, 108) argues that today there is no evidence from anthropology or from studies of subhuman primates that ...
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...othing more than repressed contents, these contents being constellated around the figure of the father. (Palmer, 1997, 164). It would seem that Freud went above and beyond to dispel religion as a healthy essential practice for the growth of society but rather saw it as a weakness. That many of Freud’s theories have stood the test of time is tantamount to his title as the ‘Father of Psychoanalysis’ although many have been tweaked or adjusted to suit today’s conditions. It would be unwise to completely ignore Freud’s views on religion but I think we can conclude that they are somewhat flawed.
Connolly, Peter (ed.) (1999) Approaches to the Study of Religion. London, Continuum.
Palmer, Michael (1997) Freud and Jung on Religion. 2nd edition, London, Routledge.
Storr, Anthony (1989) Freud; A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, Oxford University Press.
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