This article was written on October 1, 1939 on the occasion of the death of Sigmund Freud.
The death of Freud (1856 – September 23, 1939) in England once again shed light on his personality and doctrine. Acclaimed with an aura of wisdom, his doctrine is as little known as the points in which it is reprehensible in the light of reason.
A brief synthesis of psychoanalysis and its errors will show Freud’s true knowledge.
The psychoanalyst’s doctrine is not entirely devoid of truth, nor are its correct principles original. Yet his doctrine is original in exaggerated applications and dangerous abstractions, and often falls into errors and contradictions.
Fundamentally Freud’s doctrine is based on the existence of the subconscious and on its absorption of all psychic life. The first foundation is correct, the second, erroneous. In fact, the existence of the subconscious is indisputable. However, while not ceasing to influence consciousness, the subconscious is not the overwhelming factor of psychic life.
In the subconscious, or rather in the unconscious, Freud discovers instincts and complexes—systems of tendencies grouped in a certain direction, in more or less close associations—that explain the whole dynamism of our activity. According to Freud, frustrated acts, unconscious acts, and dreams demonstrate the existence of the subconscious and constitute the elements of our psychic energy.
Thus an analysis of these elements, again according to Freud, discovers the various complexes and instincts that throb in the subconscious. Among them is the “libido” or instinct of sexual pleasure that evolves in several overlapping phases.
In their dynamism, the instincts are impeded from looming into consciousness thanks to “censorship,” a psychological function that is the fruit of education, social environment, laws, religion, and so forth. This “censorship” represses and stresses instincts and complexes and prevents them from fully evolving according to their natural tendencies.
The continuous repression created by “censorship” gradually forms a set of violated feelings whose fruit is neurosis.
To find a therapy for this nervous disease, a physician, as was Freud, must probe the orientation of the instincts, educate, and even sublimate them.
Here, in broad strokes, is the doctrine of Sigmund Freud. It is legitimate in its insistence on the role of the subconscious in human life but exaggerated in seeking to necessarily reduce all psychism to a servant of man’s instincts. On its lower, sensitive part common to animals it shuts out the rational tendency whose role is not to throttle the instincts, but channel them to serve the superior principles that regulate human activity.
Moreover, reducing all human life to “libido” as being its first and fundamental principle, represents a simplistic view of a much more complex reality.
Nor is the real censorship formed by “social prejudices” such as “religion” and “morality”. Naturally, refuting this “prejudice” label that Freud bestows on religion is another order of ideas. Morality and religion objectively exist and are not the fruit of prejudice but of man’s nature and of divine Revelation.
Purged of its exaggerations, psychoanalytic therapy is not original, as the Church Herself uses it when She preaches examination of conscience and confession for the faithful.
Ultimately, it is the introspective method. However, while true, this method is not a remedy.
The solution for psychic life is not found in identifying instincts with the norm of conduct but in educating these instincts according to a rational criterion.
Finally, if its value for the study of the subconscious is certain, attributing the symbolism of dreams to the sexual instinct is not.
Freud’s sexualizing effort is perhaps the deepest characteristic of his doctrine, which appears more as a morbid conception than as the brainchild of a thinker and sage.
The preceding article was originally published in O Legionário, No. 368, on October 1, 1939. It has been translated and adapted for publication without the author’s revision. –Ed.