Here are some pictures:
Here are the quotes:
"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers."
-- from The Art of Being by Erich Fromm, pgs. 26-29 (PART II; 5. "Antiauthoritarianism"): Another obstacle to being is the phobia against anything that is considered authoritarian, that is to say, "forced" upon the individual and requiring discipline. This phobia is consciously conceived as desire for freedom, the complete freedom to decide. (Jean-Paul Sartre in his concept of freedom has given the philosophical rationalization for this ideal.) It has many roots. First of all, there is a socio-economic root. Capitalist economy is based on the principle of freedom, to sell and to buy without interference or restriction, the freedom to act without any restricting moral or political principles--except those explicitly codified by law, which on the whole tend to prevent willful damage to others. But even though bourgeois freedom had largely economic roots, we cannot understand the passionate character of the wish for liberty unless we take into account that this wish was also rooted in a powerful existential passion: The need to be oneself and not a means to be used for the purposes of others.
This existential desire for liberty slowly was repressed, however; in the desire to protect one's property, the genuine wish for freedom became a mere ideology. And yet, a seemingly paradoxical development set in in the last decades. Authoritarianism decreased considerably in the Western democracies, yet with it decreased, too, the factual freedom of the individual. What changed was not the fact of dependency but its form. In the nineteenth century those who ruled exercised overt, direct authority: kings, governments, priests, bosses, parents, teachers. With changing methods of production, particularly the increasing role of machines, and with the change from the idea of hard work and saving to the ideal of consumption ("happiness"), overt personal obedience to a person was substituted by submission to the organization: the endless belt, the giant enterprises, governments which persuaded the individual that he was free, that everything was done in his interests, that he, the public, was the real boss. Yet precisely because of the gigantic power and size of the bureaucracy of the state, army, industry, the replacement of personal bosses by impersonal bureaucracies, the individual became more powerless than he was, even before -- but he is not aware of his powerlessness.
In order to defend himself against such an individually and socially disturbing awareness, he has now built up an ideal of absolute, unrestricted "personal" freedom. One manifestation of this has been the establishment of sexual freedom. Both the young and many of their middle-aged parents have tried to realize this ideal of freedom by rejecting any restrictions in the sphere of sexual relations. To be sure, this was partly a very wholesome process. After two-thousand years of religious defamation, sexual desire and satisfaction ceased to be considered sinful, and hence constant guilt feelings and thus a readiness to atone for that guilt by renewed submission were reduced. But even with due appreciation of the historical significance of the "sexual revolution," one should not ignore some other, less favorable "side effects" of that revolution. It tried to establish the freedom of whim instead of the freedom of will.
What is the difference? A whim is any desire that emerges spontaneously, without any structural connection with the whole personality and its goals. (In young children they form part of a normal pattern.) The desire itself--even the most fleeting or irrational one--today requires its fulfillment; to disregard it or even to postpone it is experienced as an infringement of one's freedom. If a man meets a woman accidentally, has a few free hours, is bored, he may easily consider the idea of sleeping with her. Once the idea has appeared on his mental screen he decides to act accordingly, not necessarily because the woman attracts him particularly or because his sexual need is so intense, but because of the compulsive need to act out what even he has conceived as a wish. Or, say, a detached, lonely adolescent, who walks along the street, suddenly has the thought that it would be exciting to stab the young nurse whom he passes--and he stabs her to death. These are not merely a few instances in which people have followed whims. That the first act is lovemaking and the second is killing is of course a significant difference. But what they have in common is the character of a whim. Examples between these extremes abound, and anyone can find them for himself.
The general criterion of a whim is that it responds to the question "Why not?" and not to the question "Why?" I am sure that anyone who observes behavior minutely has discovered with what extraordinary frequency people, when asked whether they would like to do this or that, begin their answer with "Why not?" This "Why not?" implies that one does something simply because there is no reason against doing it, not because there is a reason for it; it implies that it is a whim but not a manifestation of the will. Following a whim is, in fact, the result of deep inner passivity blended with a wish to avoid boredom. Will is based on activity, whim on passivity.
The most significant place in which the fiction of personal freedom is acted out is the area of consumption. The customer is the king of the supermarket and the automobile market. Many brands of each commodity vie for his favor. They have tried to entice him for months on the television screen, and when he buys he seems to be like a powerful man who, in full freedom, makes his choices between soap powder A, B, and C--all of which beg for his vote as political candidates do before election day. The customer-king is not aware that he has no influence on what is offered him, and that the alleged choice is no "choice" since the different brands are essentially the same, sometimes even manufactured by the same corporation.
It is possible to formulate a general psychological law: The greater the sense of powerlessness and the greater the lack of authentic will, the more grows either submission or an obsessional desire for satisfaction of one's whims and the insistence on arbitrariness.
To sum up: The chief rationalization for the obsession of arbitrariness is the concept of antiauthoritarianism. To be sure, the fight against authoritarianism was and still is of great positive significance. But antiauthoritarianism can--and has--become a rationalization for narcissistic self-indulgence, for a childlike sybaritic life of unimpaired pleasure, in which according to Herbert Marcuse even the primacy of genital sexuality is authoritarian, because it restricts the freedom of pregenital--i.e., anal--perversions. Finally, the fear of authoritarianism serves to rationalize a kind of madness, a desire to escape from reality. Reality imposes its law on man, laws that he can only escape in dreams or in states of trance--or in insanity.
-pp. 118-120: Many people...try to hide their narcissism by being particularly modest and humble, or, in the subtle form being concerned with religious, occult, or political matters that all seem to point beyond the private interest...
Similar yet quite different from narcissism are egotism and selfishness, the results of the property, or having, mode of existence. A person living in this mode is not necessarily very narcissistic. He may have broken through the shell of his narcissism, have an adequate appreciation of reality outside himself, not necessarily be "in love with himself"; he knows who he is and who the others are, and can well distinguish between subjective experience and reality. Nevertheless, he wants everything for himself; has no pleasure in giving, in sharing, in solidarity, in cooperation, in love. He is a closed fortress, suspicious of others, eager to take and most reluctant to give. He represents, by and large, the anal-hoarding character. He is lonely, unrelated, and his strength lies in what he has and in the security of keeping it. On the other hand, the very narcissistic person is by no means necessarily selfish, egocentric, or property-oriented. He can be generous, giving, and tender, although all these characteristics must be qualified by the fact that to him the other person is not fully experienced as real. Yet one can easily observe very narcissistic persons whose spontaneous impulses are generous and giving rather than hoarding and holding. Since the two orientations--narcissism and selfishness--are rarely wholly differentiated, we must accept that, for growth, a double breakthrough is necessary: That through one's narcissism and that through one's having orientation.
The first condition for overcoming one's selfishness lies in the capacity of being aware of it. This is an easier task than the awareness of one's narcissism, because one's judgment is much less distorted, one can recognize facts more easily, and because it is less easy to hide. Of course, recognition of one's egocentricity is a necessary condition of overcoming it, but by no means a sufficient one. The second step to take is gaining an awareness of the roots of the having orientation, such as one's sense of powerlessness, one's fear of life, one's fear of the uncertain, one's distrust of people, and the many other subtle roots that have grown together so thickly that it often is impossible to uproot them.
Awareness of these roots is not sufficient condition, either. It must be accompanied by changes in practice, first of all by loosening the grip that selfishness has over one by beginning to let go. One must give up something, share, and go through the anxiety that these first little steps engender. One will discover, then, the fear of losing oneself that develops if one contemplates losing things, which function as props for one's sense of self. This implies not only giving up some possessions, but, even more important, habits, accustomed thoughts, identification with one's status, even phrases one is accustomed to hold on to, as well as the image that others may have of oneself (or that one hopes they have and tries to produce); in brief, if one tries to change routinized behavior in all spheres of life from breakfast routine to sex routine. In the process of trying to do so, anxieties are mobilized, and by not yielding to them confidence grows that the seemingly impossible can be done -- and adventurousness grows. This process must be accompanied by attempting to go out of oneself and to turn to others. What does this mean? Something very simple, if we put it into words. One way of describing it is that our attention is drawn to others, to the world of nature, of ideas, of art, of social and political events. We become "interested" in the world outside of our ego in the literal meaning of interest, which comes from the Latin inter esse, i.e., "to be among" or "to be over there," rather than to be shut in within oneself. This development of "interest" can be compared to a situation in which a person has seen and can describe a swimming pool. He has spoken about it from the outside; his description has been correct, yet without "interest." But when he has jumped into the pool, and when he has become wet and then speaks about the pool, he speaks as a different person about a different pool. Now he and the pool are not opposing each other (although they have not become identical, either). The development of interest means to jump and not to remain an outsider, an observer, a person separated from what he sees. If a person has the will and the determination to loosen the bars of his prison of narcissism and selfishness, when he has the courage to tolerate the intermittent anxiety, he experiences the first glimpses of joy and strength that he sometimes attains. And only then a decisive new factor enters into the dynamics of the process. This new experience becomes the decisive motivation for going ahead and following the path he has charted. Until then, his own dissatisfaction and rational considerations of all kinds can guide him. But these considerations can carry him only for a short while. They will lose their power if the new element does not enter--experience of well-being--fleeting and small as it may be--which feels so superior to anything experienced so far, that it becomes the most powerful motivation for further progress--one that becomes stronger in and of itself the further progress goes on.
To sum up once more: Awareness, will, practice, tolerance of fear and of new experience, they are all necessary if transformation of the individual is to succeed. At a certain point the energy and direction of inner forces have changed to the point where an individual's sense of identity has changed, too. In the property mode of existence the motto is: "I am what I have." After the breakthrough it is "I am what I do" (in the sense of unalienated activity); or simply, "I am what I am."
-Man for Himself by Erich Fromm; pp. 55-57: The disharmony of man’s existence generates needs which far transcend those of his animal origin. These needs result in an imperative drive to restore a unity and equilibrium between himself and the rest of nature. He makes the attempt to restore this unity and equilibrium in the first place in thought by constructing an all-inclusive mental picture of the world which serves as a frame of reference from which he can derive an answer to the question of where he stands and what he ought to do. But such thought-systems are not sufficient. If man were only a disembodied intellect his aim would be achieved by a comprehensive thought-system. But since he is an entity endowed with a body as well as a mind he has to react to the dichotomy of his existence not only in thinking but also in the process of living, in his feelings and actions. He has to strive for the experience of unity and oneness in all spheres of his being in order to find a new equilibrium. Hence any satisfying system of orientation implies not only intellectual elements but elements of feeling and sense to be realized in action in all fields of human endeavor. Devotion to an aim, or an idea, or a power transcending man such as God, is an expression of this need for completeness in the process of living.
The answers given to man’s need for an orientation and for devotion differ widely both in content and in form. There are primitive systems such as animism and totemism in which natural objects or ancestors represent answers to man’s quest for meaning. There are non-theistic systems like Buddhism, which are usually called religious although in their original form there is no concept of God. There are philosophical systems, like Stoicism, and there are the monotheistic religious systems which give an answer to man’s quest for meaning in reference to the concept of God. In discussing these various systems, we are hampered by a terminological difficulty. We could call them all religious systems were it not for the fact that for historical reasons the word “religious” is identified with a theistic system, a system centered around God, and we simply do not have a word in our language to denote that which is common to both theistic and non-theistic systems—that is, to all systems of thought which try to give an answer to the human quest for meaning and to man’s attempt to make sense of his own existence. For lack of a better word I therefore call such systems “frames of orientation and devotion.”
The point, however, I wish to emphasize is that there are many other strivings which are looked upon as entirely secular which are nevertheless rooted in the same need from which religious and philosophical systems spring. Let us consider what we observe in our time: We see in our own culture millions of people devoted to the attainment of success and prestige. We have seen and still see in other cultures fanatical devotion of adherents to dictatorial systems of conquest and domination. We are amazed at the intensity of those passions which is often stronger than even the drive for self-preservation. We are easily deceived by the secular contents of these aims and explain them as outcomes of sexual or other quasi-biological strivings. But it is not apparent that the intensity and fanaticism with which these secular aims are pursued is the same as we find in religions; that all these secular systems of orientation and devotion differ in content but not in the basic need to which they attempt to offer answers? In our culture the picture is so particularly deceptive because most people “believe” in monotheism while their actual devotion belongs to systems which are, indeed, much closer to totemism and worship of idols than to any form of Christianity.
-For the Love of Life by Erich Fromm [Translated from the German by Robert and Rita Kimber (Edited by Hans Jurgen Schultz]; pp. vii-viii [Foreword (by Hans Jurgen Schultz)]: He loved to tell stories, either in response to questions or as a means of solving intellectual problems, stories like the one about a man who traveled a long way to visit a Hasidic master. When asked if he had taken the trouble to study the master’s doctrines, the man replied, “Oh, no, I just wanted to see how he ties his shoes.” This little story reminds us that a gesture will often tell us more than a lecture can. It also reminds us that the most brilliant remarks are of no use if the man who utters them is not the right kind of man. Whenever I visited Erich Fromm, I was reminded of that story. I always felt that I went away from him a different man from the one I had been when I arrived: I went away with my head clearer, feeling more alive and less intimidated by the forces that oppress us and make us vulnerable to despair.
It was not just learning that made him such an appealing figure. It was the interplay of life with theory, of theory with life. To be alive means to be reborn over and over again. It is a tragedy, Fromm writes, that most of us die before we have begun to live. Insights like that are not the kind on which systems are built. What they demand of us instead is that we constantly see things afresh, constantly develop new approaches. Fromm did not want disciples; he did not want to found a school. A spirit like his expends itself fully to avoid being co-opted. He observed of himself, with no small pleasure, that his capacity for abstract thought was minimal. The only way he could think philosophically was in concrete terms . . . Fromm was neither sorcerer nor scholastic. His talent for letting the heart speak along with the mind is a quality that used to go under the name of wisdom.
- from The Art of Being by Erich Fromm (Foreword by Rainer Funk); pp. 107-110 [PART V (16. On the Psychology of Having)]: Perhaps the most helpful approach to the understanding of having (in the nonfunctional sense) is to recall one of the most significant insights of Freud. He found that after the infant goes through a phase of mere passive receptivity, followed by one of aggressive, exploitative receptivity, the child, before it reaches maturity, goes through a phase that Freud designated as the anal erotic phase, which often remains dominant in the development of a person and leads to the development of the “anal character.” In this context, it is of little importance that Freud believed a special phase of the libido development was primary and that character formation was secondary (whereas in my opinion as well in that of authors closer to Freud, like Erik Erikson, the relation is in the reverse); what matters is the view that the predominant orientation toward possession is seen by Freud as the period before the achievement of full maturity and as pathological if it remains permanent. In other words, for Freud the person exclusively concerned with having and possession is a neurotic, mentally sick person.
This point of view may have been a bombshell within a society that is based on private property and whose members experienced themselves and their relationship to the world predominantly in terms of possession. Yet, as far as I know, no one protested against this attack on the highest values of bourgeois society, while Freud’s modest attempts to de-demonize sex were met with a howl by all defenders of “decency.” It is not easy to explain this paradox. Was the reason that scarcely anybody connected individual psychology with social psychology? Was it that the supreme moral value of ownership was so undisputed that nobody picked up the challenge? Or was it that Freud’s attack on middle-class sexual morals was so bitterly scorned because the attack served as a defense against one’s own hypocrisy, while the public’s attitude toward money and possessions was completely genuine and no aggressive defense was needed?
However this may be, there is no doubt that Freud believed that possessiveness as such—i.e., having—was an unhealthful orientation, if it was dominant in an adult person.
He brought to bear several kinds of data to establish his theory—first of all, those rich data in which excrements were symbolically equated with money, possession, and dirt. There is indeed ample linguistic, folkloric, and mythical data to bear this out. Freud had already in a letter to Fliess of December 22, 1897, associated money and miserliness with feces. In his classic paper, “Character and Analeroticism” (1908) he added more examples to this symbolic identity:
The connections between the complexes of interest in money and of defaecation, which seem so dissimilar, appear to be the most extensive of all. Every doctor who has practiced psychoanalysis knows that the most refractory and long-standing cases of what is described as habitual constipation in neurotics can be cured by that form of treatment. This is less surprising if we remember that that function has shown itself similarly amenable to hypnotic suggestion. But in psychoanalysis one only achieves this result if one deals with the patients’ money complex and induces them to bring it into consciousness with all its connections. It might be supposed that the neurosis is here only following an indication of common usage in speech, which calls a person who keeps too careful a hold on his money “dirty” or “filthy.” But this explanation would be far too superficial. In reality, wherever archaic modes of thought have predominated or persist—in the ancient civilizations, in myths, fairy tales and superstitions, in unconscious thinking, in dreams and in neuroses—money is brought into the most intimate relationship with dirt. We know that the gold which the devil gives his paramours turns into excrement after his departure, and the devil is certainly nothing else than the personification of the repressed unconscious instinctual life. We also know about the superstition which connects the finding of treasure with defaecation, and everyone is familiar with the figure of the “shitter of ducats” (Dukatenscheisser). Indeed, even according to ancient Babylonian doctrine gold is “the feces of Hell” (Mammon = ilu mamman). Thus in following the usage of language, neurosis, here as elsewhere, is taking words in their original, significant sense, and where it appears to be using a word figuratively it is usually simply restoring its old meaning.
It is possible that the contrast between the most precious substance known to men and the most worthless, which they reject as waste matter (“refuse”), has led to this specific identification of gold with faeces. [Freud’s Collected Papers, S.E. vol. 9 (1908). This connection is important in connection with the phenomenon of necrophilia. Cf. E. Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.]
A few words of comment are indicated. In the Babylonian notion that gold is “the feces of Hell,” the connection is made between gold, feces, and death. In Hell, meaning the world of the dead, the most valuable object is feces and this brings together the notion of money, dirt, and the dead.
The last of the two paragraphs quoted here is very revealing of Freud’s dependency on the thinking of his day. Seeking the reason for the symbolic identity of gold and feces, he proposes the hypothesis that their identity may be based on the very fact of their radical contrast, gold being the most precious and feces the most worthless substance known to man. Freud ignores the other possibility that gold is the most precious substance for civilization, whose economy is (generally) based on gold, but that this holds by no means for those primitive societies for which gold may not have had any great value. More importantly, while the pattern of his society suggests that man think of gold as the most precious substance, he may unconsciously carry a notion that gold is dead, sterile (like salt), without life (except when used in jewelry); that it is amassed labor, meant to be hoarded, the foremost example of possession without function. Can one eat gold? Can one make anything grow with gold (except when it has been transformed into capital)? This dead, sterile aspect of gold is shown in the myth of King Midas. He was so avaricious that his wish was granted that everything he touched became gold. Eventually, he had to die precisely because one cannot live from gold. In this myth is a clear vision of the sterility of gold, and it is by no means the highest value, as Freud assumed. Freud was too much a son of his time to be aware of the negative value of money and possession and, hence, of the critical implications of his concept of the anal character, which I discussed above.
-Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought by Erich Fromm; pp. 15-21 (FREUD’S SCIENTIFIC METHOD): If we understand by the scientific method a method based on the belief in the potency of reason optimally free from subjective prejudices, detailed observation of facts, formation of hypotheses, revision of the hypotheses by the discovery of new facts, et/cetera, we can see that Freud certainly was a scientist. He adapted his scientific method to the necessity of studying the irrational rather than only what can be studied with a positivistic concept of science, as most social scientists do. Another important aspect of Freud’s thinking is that he saw his object in terms of a system of structure and that he offered one of the earliest examples of System Theory. In his view no single element in a personality can be understood without understanding the whole, and no single element can be changed without changes occurring, even to a minute degree, in other elements of the system. Unlike the viewpoint of a positivistic dissecting kind of psychology, and very much like that of older psychological systems, as for instance those of Spinoza, Freud’s considered the individual as a whole and as more than a summation of parts.
So far we have talked about the scientific method and its positive meaning. But in merely describing the scientific method of a thinker one does not necessarily mean that he was correct in his results. Indeed, the history of scientific thought is a history of pregnant errors.
Here is just one example of Freud’s scientific approach, his report on the case of Dora. Freud treated this patient for hysteria and after three months the analysis came to an end. Without going into the details of Freud’s presentation I want to show his objective attitude by quoting from the case history. The patient opened the third session with these words:
[Dora]: “Do you know that I am here for the last time today?” [Freud]: “How can I know, as you have said nothing to me about it?” [Dora]: “Yes, I made up my mind to put up with it till the New Year. (It was December 31st.) But I shall wait no longer than that to be cured.” [Freud]: “You know that you are free to stop the treatment any time. But for today we will go on with our work. When did you come to this decision?” [Dora]: “A fortnight ago, I think.” [Freud]: “That sounds just like a maidservant or a governess—a fortnight’s warning.” [Dora]: “There was a governess who gave warning with the K.’s, when I was on my visit to them that time at L--, by the lake.” [Freud]: “Really? You have never told me about her. Tell me.” (Freud, 1905e, p. 105).
Freud then spent the rest of the session analyzing what this acting out of the role of a maidservant really meant. It does not matter here to what conclusions Freud came; what matters is the purity of his scientific approach. He does not get angry, he does not ask the patient to reconsider, does not encourage her by saying that if she stays working with him she will improve; he only states that since she is with him, even though it is one of the last sessions, they may as well use the time to understand what her decision means.
But with all admiration for Freud’s faith in reason, and in the scientific method, it cannot be denied that Freud often gives us the picture of an obsessive rationalist who constructs theories on the basis of practically nothing, and does violence to reason. He often made constructions using scraps of evidence that led to conclusions which were nothing short of absurd. I refer to Freud’s case history from The History of an Infantile Neurosis. [Freud, 1918b. Freud finished the case history in November 1914, but held back its publication for four years. The case is popularly known as the Report on the Wolf Man. (See also the most interesting compilation edited by Muriel Gardiner, The Wolf-Man by the Wolf-Man, in which she includes an autobiography of the Wolf Man, Freud’s case history and a supplement by Ruth Mack Brunswick.)] As Freud himself remarks, when he wrote the report he was still freshly under the impression of what he called “twisted re-interpretation” of psychoanalysis by C. G. Jung and Alfred Adler. In order to explain what I mean in referring to Freud’s obsessional thinking, I must go into this report at length.
What are the essential facts and problems in this case?
In 1910 an extremely wealthy young Russian came to Freud for help. The treatment lasted until July 1914 when Freud regarded the case as completed and wrote the history. Freud reports that the patient “had lived an approximately normal life during the ten years of his boyhood that preceded the date of his illness, and got through his studies at his secondary school without much trouble. But his earlier years were dominated by a severe neurotic disturbance which began immediately before his fourth birthday as an anxiety-hysteria (in the shape of an animal phobia) then changed into an obsessional neurosis with a religious content, and lasted with its offshoots as far as into his tenth year” (Freud, 1918b, pp. 8-9). The patient had been labeled by great psychiatric authorities as suffering from manic depressive insanity but Freud saw clearly that this was not so. (One of the greatest authorities, Professor Oswald Bumke, at that time in Munich, based his diagnosis on the fact that the patient sometimes was elated and sometimes deeply depressed when he came to him. Since he did not bother to find out whether there was anything in reality which could be responsible for these changes of mood, he could not find out the simple truth that the patient was in love with a nurse in the sanatorium where he was being treated and that whenever she responded to his love he was elated and whenever she did not he was depressed). Freud saw that there was no manic depressive psychosis, merely a very rich, idle and bored young man. But he found something else; he found that the patient had been suffering from an infantile neurosis. The patient reported that before the age of four or five he developed a fear of wolves which was aroused largely by his sister who showed him again and again a picture book in which a wolf was represented. Whenever he saw this picture he began to scream and was afraid of the wolf coming and eating him up. Considering that he lived on a large estate in Russia, it is not unnatural that the little boy should have developed a fear of wolves, instigated by the threats of his sister. On the other hand he enjoyed beating horses. He also showed in this period signs of an obsessional neurosis, for instance by the obsession to think “God-Swine” or “God-Shit.” And the patient suddenly called to mind that when he was still very small, less than five, his sister, two years older, who later committed suicide, seduced him into some kind of sexual play. Freud concluded that the little boy’s sexual life “which was beginning to come under the sway of the genital zone, gave way before an external obstacle, and was thrown back by its influence into an earlier phase of pregenital organization” (Freud, 1918b, p. 25).
But all these data are relatively minor when compared to Freud’s main interpretation, that of the Wolf Man’s dream:
I dreamt that it was night and that I was lying in my bed. (My bed stood with its foot toward the window; in front of the window there was a row of old walnut trees. I know it was winter when I had the dream, and nighttime.) Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terrified to see that some white wolves were sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window. There were six or seven of them. The wolves were quite white, and looked more like foxes or sheep dogs, for they had big tails like foxes and they had their ears pricked like dogs when they pay attention to something. In great terror, evidently of being eaten up by the wolves, I screamed and woke up (p.29 f.).
What was Freud’s interpretation of this dream?
"The dream showed that the little boy had been sleeping in his cot at the age of one and a half years, woke up in the afternoon, possibly at five o’clock, and witnessed a coitus a tergo [from behind] three times repeated; he was able to see his mother’s genitals as well as his father’s organ; and he understood the process as well as its significance. Lastly, he interrupted his parents’ intercourse in a manner which will be discussed later” (p. 37-38).
“I have now reached the point at which I must abandon the support I have hitherto had from the course of the analysis. I am afraid it will also be the point at which the reader’s belief will abandon me” (p. 36). Indeed, and more than that. To form a hypothesis about what actually happened when the boy was one and a half from a dream which says nothing more than that the boy saw some wolves, seems to be an example of obsessional thinking with complete disregard for reality. To be sure, Freud uses this association and weaves it together into a whole fabric but the fabric does not stand up with any claim to reality. This interpretation of the Wolf Man’s dream, one of the classic example’s of Freud’s art of dream interpretation, is actually a testimony to Freud’s capacity and inclination to build up reality out of a hundred little incidents either surmised or gained by interpretation, torn out of context and used in the service of arriving at certain conclusions that fit his preconceived ideas.
Thus much can be said even if Freud arrives at what is an absurd interpretation: his capacity to observe and take into account even the smallest detail, in the dream as well as in the associations of the patient, is admirable. Nothing, small as it may be, seems to escape his attention; everything is reported with the greatest accuracy.
Unfortunately this has not remained true for many of his students. Lacking Freud’s unusual power of penetrating thought and attention to detail, they have chosen an easier way and arrived at interpretations that are also absurd but are the result of some vague speculation which simplified matters tremendously.
In fact, Freud never simplified, he complicated and overcomplicated to the point that, once in the middle of his interpretation, one almost feels in a labyrinth. Freud’s method of thinking led one to discover that a phenomenon means what it seems to mean, but that it also may express its negation. He discovered that every emphasis on love could hide suppressed hate, that insecurity could be covered up by arrogance, fear by aggressiveness et cetera. This was an important discovery; however, it was also a dangerous one. The assumption that something means its opposite needs evidence and Freud was eager to find that evidence. If one is less careful, as many of his pupils were, one arrives very easily at hypotheses which are destructive of scientific thinking. In order not to be commonsensical and to show that one has a special knowledge, not a few psychoanalysts routinely assume that the patient was motivated by the opposite of what he thinks he is motivated by.
“Unconscious homosexuality” is one of the best examples. This is a part of Freudian theory by which quite a few people have been damaged. The analyst, to show that he looks beneath the surface, may suggest that the patient suffers from unconscious homosexuality. Assuming the patient has a very intense heterosexual life, it will be argued that this very intensity helps to repress an unconscious homosexuality. Or, assuming the patient has no sexual interest whatsoever in persons of his own sex, the argument will be that this complete absence of homosexual interest is a proof of the repression of homosexuality; that if a man praises the color of another man’s tie, it is prima facie evidence of his unconscious homosexuality. The trouble of course is that with this method the absence of homosexuality can never be proven and not rarely analysis has continued for years in search of unconscious homosexuality for which there is no evidence at all except from the basic assumption that anything might mean the opposite of its overt meaning. This habit has had disastrous results because it permits a degree of arbitrariness in interpretation which often leads to completely erroneous conclusions. (There is a definite parallel between this vulgar Freudianism and the vulgar Marxism that is cultivated in Soviet theoretical thinking. Marx, like Freud, shows that something can mean its very opposite but for Marx too this was something one had to prove. In vulgar Marxist thought, however, this led to the conclusion that one can always claim that if something is not what it says, it is the opposite, and thus it is easy to manipulate thinking for one’s own dogmatic purposes.)
- from The Art of Being by Erich Fromm; pp. 11-20 [PART II (2. Great Shams)]: Perhaps the most difficult obstacle to learning the art of living is what I would call the “great sham.” Not as if it were restricted to the field of human enlightenment; on the contrary, the latter is only one of the manifestations of the great sham pervading all spheres of our society. Phenomena such as products with built-in obsoleteness, products that are overpriced or actually useless if not harmful to the buyer, advertising that is a blend of a little truth and much falsehood, and many other social phenomena are part of the great fake—of which the law prosecutes only the most drastic forms. Speaking merely of commodities, their real value is covered up by the value that advertising and the name and greatness of their producers suggest. How could it be otherwise in a system whose basic principle is that production is directed by the interest in maximal profit and not by the interest in maximal usefulness for human beings?
The great sham in the sphere of politics has become more visible recently through Watergate and the conduct of the Vietnam War, with its untrue statement about “near victory” or direct faking (as in false reports of aerial attacks). Yet only the tip of the iceberg of political sham has been exposed.
In the spheres of art and literature the sham is also rampant. The public, even the educated public, has largely lost its capacity to know the difference between what is genuine and what is fake. This defect is caused by several factors. Foremost of all is the purely cerebral orientation of most people. They read or listen to only words and intellectual concepts, and do not listen “with a third ear” for proof of the author’s authenticity. To give an example: In the literature on Zen Buddhism there are writers such as D. T. Suzuki, whose authenticity is beyond doubt; he speaks of what he has experienced. The very fact of this authenticity makes his books often difficult to read, because it is of the essence of Zen not to give answers that are rationally satisfying. There are some other books, which seem to portray the thoughts of Zen properly but whose authors are mere intellectuals whose experience is shallow. Their books are easier to understand, but they do not convey the essential quality of Zen. Yet I have found that most people who claim to have a serious interest in Zen have not noticed the decisive difference in quality between Suzuki and others.
The other reason for our difficulty to discern the difference between the authentic and the sham lies in the hypnotic attraction of power and fame. If the name of a man or the title of a book is made famous by clever publicity, the average person is willing to believe the work’s claims. This process is greatly helped by another factor: In a completely commercialized society in which salability and optimal profit constitute the core values, and in which every person experiences himself as “capital” that he has to invest on the market with the aim of optimal profit (success), his inner value counts as little as that of a dental cream or a patent medicine. Whether he is kind, intelligent, productive, courageous matters little if these qualities have not been of use to make him successful. On the other hand, if he is only mediocre as a person, writer, artist, or whatever, and is a narcissistic, aggressive, drunken, obscene headline maker, he will—given some talent—easily become one of the “leading artists or writers” of the day. Of course, not only he is involved: The art dealers, literary agents, P.R. men, publishers all are interested financially in his success. He is “made” by them, and once he is a nationally advertised writer, painter, singer, once he is a “celebrity,” he is a great man—just as the soap powder is the best whose name you cannot help remembering if you are a TV viewer. Of course, fake and fraud are nothing new; they have always existed. But there was perhaps no time in which the fact of being in the public eye was of such exclusive importance.
With these examples, we touch upon the sector of the great sham that is most important in the context of this book: the sham in the field of man’s salvation, of his well-being, inner growth, and happiness...
...Before beginning even a brief sketch, I want to state that in speaking of sham I do not imply that the leaders and practitioners in various movements are consciously dishonest or intend to deceive the public. Although there are some for whom this holds true, I believe that many intend to do good and believe in the usefulness of their spiritual commodities. Yet there is not merely conscious and intended sham; the socially more dangerous is the swindle in which the performers honestly believe, whether it is to plan a war or to offer the way to happiness. Indeed, certain things have to be said, even at the risk of my being taken as personally attacking well-meaning people.
There is, in fact, little reason for personal attacks, since these merchants of salvation only satisfy a widespread demand. How could it be different? People are confused and unsure, they seek answers to guide them to joy, tranquility, self-knowledge, salvation—but they also demand that it be easy to learn, that it require little or no effort, that results be quickly obtained.
In the twenties and thirties a new movement emerged built upon the genuine interest of a small number of people in new and hitherto unpopular ideas. These ideas were organized around two central issues: the liberation of the body and the liberation of the mind from the shackles into which conventional life had bound and distorted them.
The first trend had two sources; one was psychoanalytic. Georg Groddek was the first to use massage to loosen up the body and thus help a patient to get rid of tensions and repressions...
...The second trend, the liberation of the mind, was centered mostly on Eastern ideas, particularly certain forms of Yoga, Zen Buddhism, and Buddhist meditation. All the ideas and methods, in which only a few people were interested, are genuine and important and have been of great help to a number of persons who did not expect to find an easy shortcut to salvation.
In the fifties and sixties a much larger number of people were looking for new ways to happiness, and a mass market began to form. Especially California was a fruitful soil for mixing up legitimate methods, like some of those mentioned, with cheap methods in which sensitivity, joy, insight, self-knowledge, greater affectiveness, and relaxation were promised in short courses, in a kind of spiritual smorgasbord program. Today there is nothing missing in this program; you can have sensitivity training, group therapy, Zen, T’ai Chi Chuan, almost anything under the sun, in pleasant surroundings and together with others who suffer from the same troubles: lack of genuine contact and genuine feeling. From college students to business executives, everybody finds what he wants, with little effort required.
With some dishes of the smorgasbord, such as “sensory awareness,” there is nothing the matter with the teaching, my only criticism being the atmosphere in which it is taught. In other endeavors the sham lies in the superficiality of the teaching, especially when it pretends to be based on the insight of the great masters. But perhaps the greatest sham is that what is promised—explicitly or implicitly—is a deep change in personality, while what is given is momentary improvement of symptoms or, at best, stimulation of energy and some relaxation. In essence, these methods are means of feeling better and of becoming better adjusted to society without a basic change in character.
This Californian movement, however, is insignificant by comparison with the mass production of spiritual goods organized by and around Indian “Gurus.” The most stunning success has been that of the movement called Transcendental Meditation (T.M.), whose leader is the Indian Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This guru seized upon a very old Indian traditional idea, that of meditation over a mantra—a mantra usually being a word from Hindu scripture that is supposed to have special significance (like “OM” in the Upanishads) if one concentrates on it. This concentration results in relaxation, and in lessening of tension, and in a feeling of well-being that accompanies the relaxation. T.M. can be practiced without mystifications by using English words such as “Be still,” “Love,” “One,” “Peace,” or any others that recommend themselves. If practiced regularly every day in a relaxed position, with closed eyes, for about twenty minutes, it has apparently a marked effect of quietness, relaxation, and increase in energy. (Since I have not practiced it myself so far, I only rely on credible reports by those who have.) [Dr. Herbert Benson, chief of the hypertension section at Boston’s Beth-Israel Hospital, reports on remarkable decrease of blood pressure in hypertensive patients (Newsweek, May 5, 1975)].
Maharishi did not invent this method, but he has invented how it can be packaged and marketed. In the first place, he sells the mantras, alleging that for each individual that mantra is chosen which fits the individuality of the customer. (Even if there were such correlations between specific mantras and specific individuals, any one of the thousands of teachers who introduce the novices to the secret could hardly know enough about the individuality of the new customer to make the right choice.) The idea of the custom-made mantra is the basis for selling it for a not-inconsiderable sum to the newcomer. “The personal wishes of the individual are taken into account and the possibility of this fulfilment is confirmed by the teacher.” What a promise! Any wish can be fulfilled, if only one practices T.M.
After having heard two introductory lectures, the novice has an interview with the teacher; then, with a little ceremony, he receives his personal mantra and is instructed never to say it aloud to himself or to anyone else. He has to sign a statement that he will never teach the method to others (obviously to keep the monopoly intact). The new adherent has a right to be checked every year about his progress by the teacher who introduced him, although, as I understand it, this is usually a brief routine procedure.
The movement has now many hundreds of thousands of practicing adherents, mainly in the United States but increasingly also in a number of European countries. The promise that T.M. holds out is, aside from the fulfillment of any personal wish, that the practice does not require any effort, yet it is the basis for successful, meaningful behavior. Success and inner growth go together, Caesar and God are reconciled, the more you grow spiritually the more successful you will also be in business. Indeed, the movement itself—its advertising, its vague and often meaningless language, its references to some respectable ideas, the cult of a smiling leader—has adopted all the features of big business.
The existence and popularity of the movement are as little surprising as that of certain patent medicines. What is surprising is that among its adherents and practitioners are, as I know from personal experience, people of unquestionable integrity, high intelligence, and superior psychological insight. I must admit that I am puzzled by the fact. To be sure, their positive reaction is due to the relaxing and energizing effect of the meditation exercises. But what is so puzzling is that they are not repelled by the unclear language, the crude P.R. spirit, the exaggerated promises, the commercialization of the salvation business—and why they retain their connection with T.M. rather than choose another, nonmystifying technique such as one of those mentioned above. Has the spirit of big business and its selling methods already made such inroads that one must also accept them in the field of individual spiritual development?
In spite of the favorable effect of mantra meditation, it does, in my opinion, damage to the supporter. In order to appreciate this damage one must go beyond the isolated act of mantra meditation and see the entire fabric of which it is a part: One supports an idolatrous cult and thus decreases one’s independence, one supports the dehumanizing feature of our culture—the commercialization of all values—as well as the spirit of P.R. falsehoods, the no-effort doctrine, and the perversion of traditional values such as self-knowledge, joy, well-being—by clever packaging. As a result, one’s mind becomes confused and filled with new illusions in addition to those that exist already and should be gotten rid of.
There is another danger in movements like T.M. It is used by many people who are genuinely eager to achieve an inner change and to find a new meaning to life, and by its phraseology T.M. supports such wishes. But it is in fact at best only a method for relaxation, to be compared to Hatha Yoga or the honest Autogenic Training by the late Prof. I. H. Schultz, which achieved states of refreshing and energizing relaxation in many people. Such relaxation, while desirable, has nothing to do with a fundamental human change from egocentricity to inner freedom. Admittedly, it is useful for a vain and egocentric person just as it is for a person who has dropped much of his having structure, but by pretending that it is more than momentary relaxation, T.M. blocks the way for many who would seek a real path of liberation did they not believe they had found it in Transcendental Meditation.
Lately the movement has sought also to attract and incorporate those who have an interest not only in themselves but in mankind. The Maharishi announced a “World Plan” on January 8, 1972, after seven days of silence, to two-thousand new teachers of the “Science of Creative Intelligence” on the island of Malorca. This World Plan is to be fulfilled by the construction of 3,500 “World Plan Centers,” each center for one million people. Each will educate one-thousand teachers of the Science of Creative Intelligence, so that eventually every one-thousand people in every part of the world will be provided with a teacher. The World Plan has seven aims, among them: “to improve the achievements of governments” and “to abolish the old problems of crime and of all behavior that results in misfortune.” For the realization of the seven goals there exist seven courses. Summarizing his aim, the Maharishi stated: “We shall consider ourselves as successful only then, when the problems of today’s world are essentially diminished and eventually abolished and when the educational authorities of every country will be able to bring up fully developed citizens.”
Do these plans for the salvation of the world need any comment to prove their lack of any thought, which goes beyond vulgar selling methods?
The success of T.M. has given rise to similar ventures. One such enterprise was described in Newsweek (February 17, 1975). Its inventor, born Jack Rosenberg, now Werner (from Wernherr von Braun) Erhard (from the former German chancellor Ludwig Erhard), has founded Erhard Seminar Training (EST). In EST he packaged “his” experience with Yoga, Zen, sensitivity training, and encounter therapy into a new unit that is sold for 250 dollars in two weekend sessions. According to the 1975 report, already six-thousand salvation seekers had been processed, with a large profit for EST. This is very little compared with T.M., yet it shows that by now not only an Indian but a former personal-motivation expert from a Philadelphia suburb can break into the business.
I have devoted so much space to these movements because I think there is an important lesson to be learned. The basis for any approach to self-transformation is an ever-increasing awareness of reality and the shedding of illusions. Illusions contaminate even the most wonderful-sounding teaching to make it poisonous. I am not referring here to possible errors in the teaching. The Buddha’s teachings are not contaminated because one does not believe that transmigration exists, nor is the biblical text contaminated because it contrasts with the more realistic knowledge of the history of the earth and the evolution of man. There are, however, intrinsic untruths and deceptions that do contaminate teaching, such as announcing that great results can be achieved without effort, or that the craving for fame can go together with egolessness, or that methods of mass suggestion are compatible with independence.
To be naive and easily deceived is impermissible, today more than ever, when the prevailing untruths may lead to a catastrophe because they blind people to real dangers and real possibilities.
The “realists” believe, of those who strive for kindness, that these latter mean well but that they are ingenuous, full of illusions—briefly, fools. And they are not entirely wrong. Many of those who abhor violence, hate, and selfishness are naive. They need their belief in everybody’s innate “goodness” in order to sustain that belief. Their faith is not strong enough to believe in the fertile possibilities of man without shutting their eyes to the ugliness and viciousness of individuals and groups. As long as they do so, their attempts to achieve an optimum of well-being must fail; any intense disappointment will convince them that they were wrong or will drive them into a depression, because they do not then know what to believe.
Faith in life, in oneself, in others must be built on the hard rock of realism; that is to say, on the capacity to see evil where it is, to see swindle, destructiveness, and selfishness not only when they are obvious but in their many disguises and rationalizations. Indeed, faith, love, and hope must go together with such a passion for seeing reality in all its nakedness that the outsider would be prone to call the attitude “cynicism.” And cynical it is, when we mean by it the refusal to be taken in by the sweet and plausible lies that cover almost everything that is said and believed. But this kind of “cynicism” is not cynicism; it is uncompromisingly critical, a refusal to play the game in a system of deception. Meister Eckhart expressed this briefly and succinctly when he said of the “simple one” (whom Jesus taught): “He does not deceive but he is also not deceived.”
Indeed, neither the Buddha, nor the Prophets, nor Jesus, nor Eckhart, nor Spinoza, nor Marx, nor Schweitzer were “softies.” On the contrary, they were hardheaded realists and most of them were persecuted and maligned not because they preached virtue but because they spoke truth. They did not respect power, titles, or fame, and they knew that the emperor was naked; and they knew that power can kill the “truth-sayers.”
- from You shall be as gods: A Radical Interpretation of the Old Testament and Its Tradition by Erich Fromm, pp. 160-161 [V – The Concept of SIN AND REPENTANCE]: . . . Let us note first the interesting term which the Bible uses for the evil impulse: it is called yetzer. The word yetzer is derived from the root YZR, which means “to form,” “to fashion” (like the potter the clay vessel). The noun yetzer means “form,” “frame,” “purpose,” and, with reference to the mind, “imagination,” “device,” “purpose.” [Cf. W. Geseniuas, Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910)]. The term yetzer thus means “imaginings” (evil or good). It corresponds to what we would call “drive.” The significant point is that the Hebrew word indicates the important fact that evil (or good) impulses are possible only on the basis of that which is specifically human: imagination. For this very reason, only man—and not animals—can be evil or good. An animal can act in a manner which appears to us cruel (for instance, a cat playing with a mouse), but there is no evil in this play, since it is nothing but the manifestation of the animal’s instinct. The problem of good and evil arises only when there is imagination. Furthermore, man can become more evil and more good because he feeds his imagination with thoughts of either evil or good. What he feeds, grows; and hence, evil and good grow or decrease. They grow precisely because of that specifically human quality—imagination.
That the Bible does not refrain from acknowledging the evil in man becomes quite clear in the descriptions of even its most important personalities. Adam was a coward; Cain is irresponsible; Noah is a weakling; Abraham allows his wife to be violated because of his fear; Jacob participates in the fraud against his brother Esau; Joseph is an ambitious manipulator; and the greatest of the Hebrew heroes, King David, commits unforgivable crimes.