Sunday, June 07, 2009

Fathoming Freud 15

Freud and Pain

Freud had a very high pain threshold. Although for the last fifteen or so years of his life he suffered considerable pain from on-going cancer of the jaw bone, he stubbornly refused to give up smoking cigars. In his smoking he persisted to the last. His daughter and heir, that is, his successor to presidency of the International Psychoanalytic Association, was also his secretary and nurse in his final years. In all these matters their relationship was painfully intimate. Not only had Freud analysed his own daughter and had openly discussed sexual matters, it was also she who helped him take out and wash the enormous prosthesis – he called it “the monster” – that sat in his mouth like a giant stone. It has also been noted many times that he refused to take pain killers.

Freud and Moses:

I have visited Rome many times in my life. Once with my friend Gerry I visited the Church of St Peter in the Chains. (Chiesa di San Pietro in Vincoli) That church is famous its famous statue of Moses. This statue is a marble sculpture(1513-1515) by Michelangelo Buonarroti which depicts obviously the Biblical figure Moses, and it is an integral part of the tomb of Pope Julius II. Needless to say, our man Freud had viewed this great work of art by Michelangelo and was indeed moved by it. The Wiki, in an interesting note on this great work and its connection with the founder of psychoanalysis, has this to say:

In his essay entitled The Moses of Michelangelo Sigmund Freud, along with several well-respected experts, associates this work with the first set of Tables described in Exodus 32: (19) “And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses' anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and brake them beneath the mount.”

A more recent view, put forward by Malcolm MacMillan and Peter Swales in their essay entitled Observations from the Refuse-Heap: Freud, Michelangelo’s Moses, and Psychoanalysis, relates the sculpture to a second set of Tables and the event mentioned in Exodus 33: (22) “And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:” and (23) And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen." See the following link: ( Moses and Freud )

As Freud awaited his flight from Vienna he was never idle. He continued working on his last great work on Moses. Some three years earlier he had written to a colleague and friend that “Moses won’t let go of my imagination.” (See The Death of Freud, 90) Our man believed that in the character of Moses he could find the key to the identity of the Jewish nation. In a letter to his great disciple Ernest Jones we read:

Several years ago I started asking myself how the Jews acquired their particular character, and following my usual custom I went back to the earliest beginnings. I did not get far. I was astounded to find that the first so to speak embryonic experience of the race, the influence of the man Moses and the exodus from Egypt, conditioned the entire further development up to the present day. (Ibid., 90)

Freud and Conflict

The ailing old man Freud who laboured away for an hour a day on his Moses book in his apartment at Bergasse 19, over which the Swastika now flew, was nothing if not a little conflicted. I say a little, because he had wrestled for years with his own self-analysis and that of others. So he had put many of his own conflicts and doubts to bed. But some remained, as there are always vestiges of conflicts and doubts, even in the most individuated person, to steal that Jungian term of which Freud would not be too enamoured. However, the climate of the times, the impending Nazi gloom that hovered over all of Europe and the struggle of the Jews for escape with their lives and indeed find some identity as a nation lay on the old man’s conscience. Let me return to Edmundson again here

But Freud affirms not inner peace but inner conflict. No part of the psyche must be suppressed in the interest of any other; the wages for such suppression are too dear. Any part of the self denied expression is bound to erupt – or at least to assert itself – in ways that will be harmful for the individual. “The mind,” as Emerson says, “goes antagonizing on.” (Ibid., 125)

Above the famous statue of Moses by Michelangelo, the one that inspired Freud so much!

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