3. Moses His People and Monotheist Religion

Part 1

Fred adds two prefatory notes to this final essay. The first, written in Vienna before March 1938, addresses the problem of the age - in Soviet Russia the cruel withdrawal of the 'opium' of religion from the people, in Italy the substitution of orderliness and sense of duty for religion etc. So Freud is resigned to the fact that he faces various obstacles in writing, both the fear and threat that psychoanalysis bears on Catholicism, but also internal obstacles of age and decreasing strength. The second prefatory note was written in London in June 1938 and Freud acknowledges that external obstacles are no longer a threat, however internal ones remain - he feels more uncertain in the face of his work, yet concludes with a resolve to take the plunge and see where his thoughts take him.

A. The Historical Premise

Freud quickly summarises historical facts established thus far - the Pharaoh Amenophis IV developing the already strong worship into the idea of monotheism, changing his name to incorporate that of he god Aten - to Akhenaten. The collapse of this religion, with the end of the dynasty around 1350 B.C., was followed by anarchy, before general Haremhab restored order around 1315 B.C. (with the exodus occurring some time in this anarchy).

However the period from here until the complete occupation of Canaan is clothed in obscurity. The chronological relation of the two facts namely, from Sellin that the Jews, were headstrong and killed their law-giver and leader and secondly from Meyer, that those Jews united later with the tribes in the region between Palestine, the Sinai Peninsula and Arabia and adopted the new religion of worship of the volcano/mountain god Yahweh in the area of Kadesh, - the relation of these to the time of the Exodus is extremely unclear. A point of reference is provided by a stela of the Pharaoh Merenptah (who reigned until 1215 B.C.) which in the course of a report on campaigns in Syria and Palestine names 'Israel' as among the defeated army. However this still leaves the settlement of the people in Canaan unclear - it would have happened over at least two generations and much time. The only other points of reference being the much-embellished narrative attributed to Yahwist and his later rival Elohist.

Freud continues then to question whether there is any need whatever to call in the influence of Moses as a cause of the final form taken by the Jewish idea of God, or whether it would not be enough to assume a spontaneous development to higher intellectuality during a cultural life extending over hundreds of years. Firstly in response to this, it should be noted that among the Greeks, a highly gifted people, the same conditions did not result in monotheism, but to the disintegration of their polytheism and introduction of philosophical thought. Secondly, we come upon the fact that Jewish records and historical writings assert most definitely that the idea of a single god was brought to the people by Moses. Whilst it appears that some inaccuracies have occurred in tracing far too much back to Moses than could be right to do so, this is explained by the fact that priests sought to disavow the striking fact that between being given their laws by Moses there was a gap filled with worship of Yahweh and only slowly patched afterwards. However from Freud's assertions it seems that we can trace the origins of Moses' monotheistic though to Aten, and by tracing Jewish thought to Egyptian monotheism we can see other accounts of the monotheistic idea from a more investigative historical perspective.

B. The Latency Period And Tradition

Having concluded that the idea of a single god and the rejection of magically effective ceremonial were in fact Mosaic doctrines, Freud addresses the problem of explaining the long period of latency that elapsed where monotheism cannot be seen at all, before its eventual permanent establishment.

He looks at examples of similar circumstances - such as Darwin's theory of evolution that met with embittered rejection and was violently disputed before being accepted and Darwin honoured. An analogy in mental life is also offered, since it can be seen that on learning something new - which contradicts one's wishes, before finally being accepted, we see that the reasoning activity of the ego to overcome the objections that are maintained by strong affective cathexes, takes time. Similarly in 'traumatic neuroses' we see a development of psychical and motor symptoms after several weeks which can only be traced to his shock, concussion etc. at the time of the accident - i.e. these symptoms went through an 'incubation' period.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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