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February 11, 1983 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-02-11

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72 Friday, February 11, 1983


Bettelheim Criticizes Direction of Psychoanalysis


In this review of
"Freud and Man's Soul" by
Bruno Bettelheim (Knopf)
we are interested in a sum-
mary of the book's contents
and an inquiry into how
Freud's Jewish soul influ-
enced his work.
Although Freud consid-
ered religion to be an illu-
sion and was a professed
atheist, he prided himself
on his Jewishness and felt
linked to his Jewish friends
by the hidden secret of a
common psychic structure
(soul). As will be seen later,
Bettelheim would not like
the term "psychic
structure" as being too med-
ical, too unfeeling and not
indicative of Freud's pas-
sion for understanding the
origin and nature of man's
soul (die seele).
Freud- suggested that if
one wanted to espouse new
ideas or unpopular causes,
it was actually helpful to be
Jewish. He stated that in
his own case, it was "not
entirely a matter of chance
that the first advocate of
psychoanalysis was a Jew.
To profess belief in a new
theory called for a readiness
to accept a position of solit-
ary opposition, a position
with which no one is more
familiar than a Jew."
In this book, Bettelheim,
while apparently advocat-
ing secular humaneness, in
his image of Freud, wields a
wide sweeping sword. Bet-
telheim attacks the
English-language trans-
lators of Freud as having
mistranslated Freud's
warm, human German "I"
into cold, souless Greek,
Latin and English terms.
The consequences of
these errors are to him
far reaching. He believes
that it accounts for the
spiritual barrenness of
Freud's successors,
especially the American
They tied psychoanalysis
in America to medicine
through the training insti-
tutes and made
psychoanalysis a technique
of therapy rather than a
form of lifelong individual
introspection that would
lead to knowing oneself and
one's soul.




However, Bettelheim
doesn't limit his attack to
psychoanalysts. He also de-
preciates the American cul-
ture (an easy whipping boy),
its narcissim and moral
weakness, and behavioris-
tic psychology.
Bettelheim's stated con-
cern that led to writing this
book is that qualified people
living in Vienna in Freud's
time have either died or are
in their 70s and 80s and that
if the many mistranslations
which abound in the
Standard Edition are to be
corrected, the time is now.
He states that a com-
plete discussion of the
many mistranslations are
beyond his capabilities.
Any younger individuals
who might attempt this
important task in the fu-
ture could also be
criticized as not having
lived in Freud's Vienna
and thus not being qual-
ified to understand the
language nuances.
Since Bettelheim did not
dare to attempt a truly corn-,
prehensive study himself,
he concentrated in this book
on two smaller tasks: to cor-
rect the mistranslations of
Some of the most important
psychoanalytic concepts
and to show how deeply
humane a person Freud was
in his concern with man's
innermost being — his soul.
The current English
translation's greatest
shortcomings are that they
give no hint of this humane
Bettelheim cites chapter
and verse to prove his point.
With this thesis there need
be no argument. Freud
chose German words to ex-
plain the psyche or soul
specifically for their
humanistic resonance, for
their power to evoke in the
German readers not only an
intellectual but also an
emotional response.
He used the German word
"das ich" (the I— which was
translated into the "Ego")
as being only one aspect of
our psyche. It was separated
from "das es" (the it —
translated Id) and "das
Uber-Ich" (above I = trans-
lated superego).

When he was speaking of
what pertains to the I, he
meant our conscious mental
life, and when he was speak-
ing of all three institutions,
he spoke of the soul. He did
not mean our mental life
(translator's usage) when
he spoke of our psyche. He
meant man's soul.
These and the other
clarifications of mistransla-
tions made by Bettelheim
are welcomed contribu-
What can be questioned is-
the complete exoneration of
the master — Freud — in
these mistranslations. He
stresses only the idealistic
and humane aspects of
Freud. He doesn't mention
the pragmatic side of Freud,
protecting his brainchild,
psychoanalysis, and allow-
ing the "mistranslations" to
stand for political pm-poses.
It is difficult to believe
that Anna Freud, re-
cently deceased, as co-
editor of the English
translations, did not fol-
low in the direction laid
down by- Freud himself.
Bettelheim also con-
tradicts himself by em-
phasizing Freud's continu-
ous self-analysis and pes-
simistic recognition of the
dark forces in man's nature
while at the same time one-
sidedly painting Freud as
the'all good, humane, loving
Also, he chooses a quota-
tion from Freud in a letter to
Jung which he places at the

beginning of the book.
"Psychoanalysis is in es-
sence a cure through love."
It is strange that a quota-
tion with the word "cure"
should be chosen when the
book quotes Freud as
minimizing the _ treatment
aspects of psychoanalysis in
preference to an emphasis
on its potential insights into
man's soul.
Bettelheim's work is im-
portant since he has become
a major writer in America.
Coming from a middle class,
"assimilated" Jewish fam-
ily in Vienna, he was raised
and educated in an
environment similar to
Freud's. Settling in
America, at the University
of Chicago, he has written
several outstanding books
about childhood and adoles-
He has a fine literary
style. It is both humane
and contains a sense of
urgency that carries the
reader easily through the
Bettelheim in 1977 won
both the National Book
Award and the National
Book Critics Circle Award
for "The Uses of Enchant-
ment." This is a profound
and delightful exposition of
the magic of fairy tales and
the role they play in child
Indeed, he has become far
more influential in his Uni-
versity of Chicago sur-
roundings than if he had
remained in Vienna. He and



many other German Jewish
refugees have carried out an
act of cultural diffusion.
When Hitler overran
Europe, psychoanalysis was
almost wiped out. In
America, it was respected
and raised to great heights,
apparently not in the man-
ner desired or appreciated
by Freud or by Bettelheim.
The explanation may
lie in Freud's disap-
pointment in the failure
of psychoanalysis to go in
the direction he vis-
ualized. He wanted to
protect it from physi-
cians (which he failed to
do in America) and he
wanted to protect it from
He wanted to entrust it to
a profession that did not
exist — "a profession of sec-
ular ministers of souls . . ."
Freud wanted this new pro-
fession to serve as midwives
to the soul.
The failure to achieve
these goals may explain the

bitterness that seeps
through Bettelheim's book.
It seems unfortunate that
individuals who analyze
themselves throughout a
lifetime, who seek to dis-
cover the truth about their
souls, who become secular
humanitarians, do not end
up with deeper understand-
ing, kindness and love of
their fellow man. Bitterness
is unbecoming.
Freud's search for knowl-
edge of one's soul is tradi-
tionally Jewish. For exam-
ple, in Hasidic strivings
(similar to psychoanalysis'
dictum to know oneself) and
to those many Jewish schol-
ars who_probed their innner
depths through the mystic
books of the Kabala (while
minimizing Jewish law —
the Halakha), the knowl-
edge of the soul was the
In the most deeply reli-
gious Jews this striving
was intensified by the
soul's desire to know
God. When these Jews,
like Rabbi Akiva, suc-
ceeded in going through
their inner hells and com-
ing out intact, they have
been described as return-
ing to their families and
communities as gentle,
humble, loving human
So too can successful con-
tinuing self-analysis of
one's soul produce individu-
als who in time become
understanding, secular

Jew-Turned-Priest Ponders 'Who Is a jew?'


HAIFA — Jack Friedman
was born in Cape Town to
parents who came to South
Africa from Lithuania and
Poland. He to the local
schools, joined the Zionist
youth movement in which
he won a prize for oratory,
took piano lessons like a
good Jewish boy. In the
same tradition, he entered
medical school and
graduated as a doctor. A
typical story.
Meet Father Elias, who
served his novitiate in the
Carmelite order in
Loughrea, Eire, studied
theology and philosophy for
six years at a Carmelite Col-
lege in France, and since
1954 has been a monk at the
Carmelite Monastery on
Stella Maris Road here in
Jack Friedman and
Father Elias have much in
common. They are the same
We sat at a table in the
large public room of the
monastery and discussed
his strange and unusual
career, as well as the phi-

losophy which led him on here for 28 years. He has "Jewish Identity," first pub-
his path.
not sought to take advan- lished in 1974, and now, in
His dark brown habit did tage of the Law of the Re- revised form, seeking an
not hide the fact that Fr. turn, he says, since he American publisher. It con-
Elias is solidly built. He has does not consider himself tains a detailed theological
a full face, iron gray hair a Jew.
and rational explanation of
combed straight back, and
He disapproves of active his philosophy in which,
an extrovert personality.
missionary work, and among other things, he
In his youth he had al- neither he nor Father seeks to answer the ques-
most no contact with Chris- Daniel have ever baptized a tion: "Who is a Jew?"
tians, never read the New Jew. Active proselytizing,
The definition is based on
Testament, never entered a in which the initiative is his demarcation of two fac-
church. He was not influ- taken to persuade someone tors in Jewish identity, a
enced by any individual. to change his faith, is im- dichotomy of historical
Through his membership in moral, he feels. On the identification. The first is
the Zionist youth group he other hand, passive pro- an identification which he
was led to ponder on the selytizing, in which guid- calls "Israelite." The people
Jewish problem, and why it ante is given to one who historically called Israel
was not solved. He came to comes and seeks such coup- were divinely elected by
the conclusion that politcal sel, should be just as accept- God. Each of us who belongs
Zionism was not the answer able as guidance given by to that people, by birth or by
to the Jewish problem be- the rabbis to the many hun- conscientious conversion,
cause that problem is tran- dreds of Christians who cannot disavow his status as
scendantal and can not be each year seek to convert to an Israelite because it was
solved by material means.
Judaism in Israel.
imposed on him by God.
Jews. have suffered for He has had many applica-
Those who adhere to
2,000 years because they tions. There are some 10 or rabbinical Judiasm, to
have not accepted their 15 cases a year in which Is- the beliefs and practices
Messiah, he said. Fr. Elias raeli Jews come to his door,
of such Judiasm, and to
encourages the return of and ask for help in convert- the 613 mitzvot, are the
Jews to the Holy Land be- ing. He quickly sees only ones who may prop
cause that is part of God's through them. Almost all of erly be called Jews, he
will, but he beleves the state them want to go to Ameri-
says. Their number is ob-
of Israel cannot solve the ca and believe that some- .viously very small. Those
problem of anti-Semitism. how, if they become Chri- who reject rabbinic
On the other hand, he was sians, they will get there Judaism — and this
always been drawn to the more quickly, or be enabled
would include, he says,
secular, cultural Zionism of to succeed there. They are
secular Zionists and even
Ahad HaAm and has all dismissed out of hand.
people like himself —
studied his writings.
Fr. Elias has written a cannot properly be called
Unlike Father (then number of books, among Jews, but they still re-
Brother) Daniel, a col- them an early critique of main Israelites.
league in the Carmelite modern Zionism which he
Who is a Jew? His defini-
Monastery, he has not penned at the age of 27, at tion would seem to agree
elected to take Israel citi- the time of his conversion. with that of the most ex-
zenship, and retains his In retrospect he admits that treme Orthodox groups. As
South African national- it was abrasive.
for the rest of us, we are Is-
ity, though he has been
His magnum opus is raelites.

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