Michael Mack is a Sesqui Centenary Research Fellow at the University of Sydney, Australia.
The Savage Science: Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalysis, and the History of Religion
Article first published online: 21 AUG 2006
Journal of Religious History
Volume 30, Issue 3, pages 331–353, October 2006
How to Cite
MACK, M. (2006), The Savage Science: Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalysis, and the History of Religion. Journal of Religious History, 30: 331–353. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9809.2006.00497.x
- Issue published online: 21 AUG 2006
- Article first published online: 21 AUG 2006
This article analyzes how Freud takes issue with the prioritization of the present over and above the historical past. Significantly, Freud's understanding of history is closely related to his interest in Christianity's historical dependence on Jewish antiquity. He emphasizes the common sources of both religions: both are shaped by the experience of guilt. Christianity, however, relegates the historical past to the realm of the “old Adam.” According to Freud, Jewish culture, by contrast, revolves around the commemoration of a “savage” (i.e. pre-modern) past. This article thus focuses on how Freud combines his analysis of onto-genesis (in his psychoanalytical case studies) with a discussion of phylogeny. The manifestation of psychic illness gives body to the unconscious remembrance of phylogenetic history. Thanks to religious and literary documents an irrational past has been put down in writing. According to Freud, this characterizes their historical truth value.