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Medium 9781855752658

APPENDIX B. An exegesis of conscience in the works of Freud

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

The first mention of “conscience” is in Freud’s 71st letter to Fliess, written on 15 October 1897 (Freud, 1950 [1897]), where he quotes the celebrated line from Hamlet:

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all. [Act III, Scene 1]

Freud goes on to ponder why it is that Hamlet does not avenge his father by killing his uncle even though he kills Laertes and his courtiers without scruple. Freud suggests that Hamlet had himself meditated the same deed against his father (out of passion for his mother). And then he says:

His conscience is his unconscious sense of guilt. [Freud, 1950 (1897), p. 266]

So Freud here equates conscience with guilt for a deed that has been done, but when the guilt is unconscious, the form of it is in actions—that is, the killing of Laertes and his courtiers as displacement from the uncle because of guilt: if he killed the uncle, it would bring him too close to the intent to kill his father, awareness of which would be too shameful.

In the Studies on Hysteria, Breuer refers to conscience as something that strikes the person subsequent to the event:

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CHAPTER NINE: Religion and consciousness

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

I believe that “revealed religion” is antithethical to consciousness, whereas “natural religion” is conducive to it. This chapter is an attempt to substantiate this statement. In order to do this, I need, first, to define the difference between revealed religion and natural religion, then to elaborate my theory of how something comes to consciousness, and, finally, to show how revealed religion prevents it, whereas natural religion favours it. As each of these elements in the argument is in itself a huge topic and each is open to debate, this chapter is necessarily a sketch or an outline that requires considerable elaboration.

When people say that they are religious or not religious, they conceptualize religion according to one particular form of it—the form that has been transmitted into Western civilization through the agency of the Judaeo–Christian community of the faithful. I include Islam in the Judaeo–Christian tradition. The idea that this one particular form constitutes the whole of religion is such a deeply rooted assumption that, I have found it usually takes more than just intellectual argument to open people to the notion of any religion other than this one. I shall try first to outline what is meant by revealed religion.

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Medium 9781855752030

11. From Causal to Moral in Psychoanalysis

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

Freud's mechanistic and causal language stands in the way of a proper appreciation of his aims and achievements.

(Dilman, 1984)

It is the Judaeo-Christian view that God created man, and that this act was the goal of creation in order that man might share in the beneficent goodness of God's life. The universe is subordinate to this purpose, and is to be understood in relation to it. When Darwin proposed that man had evolved from lower forms of life there was an uproar. However, over time Christian apologists argued that God had created man by means of evolution, thus preserving the Judaeo-Christian view that all is to be explained in terms of God's foreordained purpose. The present, then, is to be explained in terms of the future. Such a schema is called in scientific discussion a teleological cause, contrasted with efficient causation.

Survival is the principal motivating evolutionary development in Darwin's schema: one species develops into another over geological time because those variations in offspring which survive best persevere whereas others fall by the wayside. But survival is not the same as heading towards a goal. Homo sapiens has emerged because the series of variations that differentiate us from the chimpanzee were those that survived best. Also, Homo sapiens is not the end-point of evolution – in another 200,000 years a new creature may have emerged. What brings about this present state of affairs is a prior event, the efficient cause.

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14. The Human Condition

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

‘Did you say the stars were worlds, Tess?’
‘Yes.’
‘All like ours?’
‘I don't know; but I think so…Most of them are splendid and sound – a few blighted.’
‘Which do we live on – a splendid or blighted one?’
‘A blighted one.’
‘’Tis very unlucky that we didn't pitch on a sound one, when there were so many more of ’em!’

(Hardy, 1984)

The message of those great masters of spiritual living, the masters who arose in the Axial and post-Axial Eras, was that the human purpose is not to survive bodily at all costs. To offer sacrifice may bring rain, may bring a richer harvest, but there is more to life than this – there is an inwardness, the fulfilment of which gives life its purpose. Attention to this inner life and its development brings a serenity that surpasses the more transitory pleasures of existence. The fruit of attentiveness to our inner life is compassion for our fellow human beings, for all living things, and for our world. This was the message of the masters: cultivate the good, attend to what is inner, and have compassion for your fellow man and woman. It was a message which was spoken with disarming simplicity; to achieve the goal they put before their followers, however, was a task of supreme difficulty.

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16. The Transformation of Narcissism through Psychoanalysis

Symington, Neville Karnac Books ePub

What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valour, rage – who can tell? – but truth – truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder – the man knows, and can look on without a wink. But he must at least be as much of a man as these on the shore. He must meet that truth with his own true stuff – with his own inborn strength.

(Conrad, 1973)

The core of psychoanalytic method is the use of the transference, a phenomenon whereby the patient expects the analyst to behave in preset ways. These are determined by the patient's inner mental states, which affect how the analyst is perceived. It is frequently stated in the analytic literature that these inner mental states are ‘caused’ by the ways in which people, especially parents, have behaved towards the patient in the infantile environment. What the analyst then experiences in the transference is a projection onto him of this parental imago but what becomes clear in the infantile situation is that the patient is identified with this imago. In other words what is transferred on to the analyst is a hated part of the patient's own self. This identification becomes known when the analyst can see that the patient is behaving in precisely the way that the parent is claimed to have behaved towards the patient.

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