Methods and Rationale
of Freudian Psychoanalysis
September 13, 1915
kind of deliberations you are engaged in at the moment, my friends,
I must assume that your minds would be less than ready to take in a
continuation of yesterday's lecture. For those of you who want to hear
it, that lecture will be given tomorrow, but today I would like to speak
about something that will relate in some way to things you all must
necessarily have in mind at the moment.
First of all, and from a
very specific point of view, I would like to address the question of what
is really confronting us in the Goesch-Sprengel case. In recent lectures
I have often said that it is important to arrive at the appropriate
perspective from which to try to resolve any given issue. How, then,
can we arrive at the right perspective on this particular matter through
objective study of the case?
In order to deal with a case
like this objectively, we must first of all remove it from its personal
context and insert it into a larger one. If, as I believe, this larger
context turns out to be what is most important for our anthroposophical
movement, we will find ourselves obliged to study this case for our
own edification and for the sake of spiritual science itself. And in
fact there is a larger context to the case, as will become apparent
if we look at Mr. Goesch's letter of August 19 with an eye for his main
motives and arguments.
Since you have important
deliberations ahead of you, I will not detain you too long, but will
only select a few essential points for your consideration. The first
is Goesch's claim that promises have not been kept. If you listened
to the letter carefully, you will have noticed that the emphasis in
his reproach is not on the alleged making and not keeping of promises.
His primary accusation is that I looked for and systematically applied
a means of making promises to members and not keeping them, and that
once the members noticed that these promises were not being kept, they
were put into a state of mind that forced them into a particular relationship
to the one who had made and not kept the promises. As a result, forces
accumulated in their souls that eventually made them lose their sound
So the first hypothesis
Goesch presents is that systematic attempts were made to stifle the
members' good sense, that deliberately making and breaking promises
was a means of dulling their normal state of consciousness, resulting
in a kind of stupefaction that turned them into zombies. That is the
first point his letter addresses.
His second point has to
do with one of the means of carrying this out. To put it briefly, through
handshakes and friendly conversations and the like, I am supposed to
have initiated a kind of contact with members that was suited, because
of its very nature and the influence it allowed me to exert, to bringing
about the above-mentioned effect on their souls.
A third thing we must keep
in mind as a red thread running through Goesch's whole letter is the
nature of his relationship to Miss Sprengel. We could add to these three
points, but let us deal with them first.
To begin with, how does
Goesch manage to construct such a systematic theory, based on his first
two points, about how steps were taken to undermine the members' state
of consciousness? We need to go into this thoroughly and try to find
out where it comes from. In Goesch's case, we are led to his long involvement
with Dr. Freud's so-called theory of psychoanalysis.
[ Note 1 ]
If you study this theory, you will begin to see that it is intimately
related to how the pathological picture presented in the letter develops.
Certain connections can be drawn between this pathological picture,
as it relates to Goesch's first two points, and his involvement with
the Freudian psychoanalytic point of view.
Of course, I am not in a
position to give you a comprehensive picture of Freudian psychoanalytic
theory in brief — my intent is only to present a few points that
will help clarify the Goesch-Sprengel case. However, in a certain sense
I do feel qualified to talk about psychoanalysis, because in my earlier
years I was friends with one of the medical experts involved in its
[ Note 2 ]
eventually abandoned the theory of psychoanalysis after it degenerated
later on in Freud's life. In any case, please do not take what I am
going to say now as a comprehensive characterization of Freudian theory;
I only want to highlight a few points.
start from the assumption that an unconscious inner life exists alongside
our conscious soul-activity — that is, in addition to the soul-activity
we are conscious of, there is also an unconscious inner life we are
usually not aware of. An important component of psychoanalysis is the
doctrine that certain experiences people have in the course of their
life can make impressions on them, but these impressions disappear from
their conscious awareness and work on in their subconscious. According
to the psychoanalysts, we do not necessarily become fully conscious
of these experiences before they sink down into the unconscious—for
example, something can make an impression on a person during childhood
without ever coming to full consciousness, and still have such an effect
on that person's psyche that it sinks down into the unconscious and
goes on working there. Its effects are lasting, and in some cases lead
to psychological disturbances later on. I am skipping a lot of links
in the chain of reasoning and jumping right to the outcome of the whole
process. In other words, we are to imagine in the soul's subconscious
depths a kind of island of childhood and youthful experiences gone rampant.
Through questioning during psychoanalysis, these subconscious proliferating
islands in the soul can be lifted up into consciousness and incorporated
into the structure of conscious awareness. In the process, the person
in question can be cured of psychological defects in that particular
During the early years of
the psychoanalytic movement, it was the practice of Dr. Breuer in particular
to carry out this questioning with the patient under hypnosis.
[ Note 3 ]
Later on, this practice was discontinued, and now the Freudian
school conducts this analysis with the patient in a normal waking state
of consciousness. In any case, the underlying assumption is that there
are unhealthy, proliferating islands present in the psyche below the
level of consciousness.
This psychoanalytic outlook
has gradually spread to incorporate and try to explain all kinds of
phenomena of ordinary life, particularly with regard to how they appear
in people's dreams. As I already explained once in a lecture to our
friends in another city, it is at this point that the Freudian school
really goes out on a limb in saying that unfulfilled desires play a
primary role in dreams.
[ Note 4 ]
Freudians say that it is typical for people to experience unfulfilled
desires in their dreams, desires that cannot be satisfied in real life.
It can sometimes happen — and from the point of view of psychoanalytic
theorists, it is significant when it does — that one of these
desires present on an unconscious island in the psyche is lifted up
in a dream and reveals in disguised form an impulse that had an effect
on the person in question during his or her childhood.
Please note the peculiarity
of this train of thought. It is assumed that as young boys or girls,
people have experiences that sink down into subconsciousness and work
on as fantasy experiences, clouding their consciousness. The pattern,
then, is this: experiences of waking life are repressed and continue
to work on the subconscious, leading to a weakened state of consciousness.
This is exactly the same pattern Goesch constructs with regard to promises
being given and broken and working on in the subconscious — all
with the intention to create the same effect in the subconscious as
the “islands” in Freudian psychoanalytic theory. According
to Goesch, this was done cunningly and deliberately and resulted in
a state of stupefaction analogous to what occurs when experiences of
waking life have sunk into subconsciousness and are brought up again
in a dream.
Psychoanalytic theory is
a very tricky business, and if you dwell on it long enough, it gives
rise to certain forms of thought that spread and affect all your thinking.
As you can see, this has something to do with why Goesch came up with
such a crazy idea.
In addition, as I have said
before, the concept of physical contact plays an important part. I am
now going to read certain passages from one of Dr. Freud's books, a
collection of essays from the Freudian magazine Imago, and
I ask you to pay close attention to them.
[ Note 5 ]
But I must precede that with something else concerning the Goesch-Sprengel
case. Those of you who have known Miss Sprengel for some time will recall
that she was always very concerned about protecting herself from other
people's influence on her aura — she lived in horror of having
to shake hands and things like that. Even before Goesch arrived on the
scene, she had already gotten the idea that shaking hands is a criminal
act in our esoteric circles. The following incident is absolutely typical:
I had business to do in Dr. Schmiedel's laboratory and happened to meet
Miss Sprengel there.
[ Note 6 ]
my hand to her, which gave her grounds for saying, “That's how
he always does it — he does whatever he wants to you and then
shakes hands, and then you forget all about it.” There you have
the origin of that theory about handshaking. Yesterday you all heard
what this theory became in Miss Sprengel's confused mind with the help
of Goesch. He contributed his understanding of Freud's theories and
combined things systematically with Freudian ideas.
The following passage is
from page 29 of the above-mentioned book by Freud:
The principal characteristic of the psychological
constellation which becomes fixed in this way is what might be described
as the subject's ambivalent attitude (to borrow the apt term coined
by Bleuler) towards a single object, or rather towards one act in
connection with that object. He is constantly wishing to perform this
act (the touching), [and looks on it as his supreme enjoyment, but
he must not perform it] and detests it as well. The conflict between
these two currents cannot be promptly settled because — there
is no other way of putting it — they are localized in the subject's
mind in such a manner that they cannot come up against each other.
The prohibition is noisily conscious, while the persistent desire
to touch is unconscious and the subject knows nothing of it. If it
were not for this psychological factor, an ambivalence like this could
neither last so long nor lead to such consequences.
[ Note 7 ]
This is followed by a long
discussion of the role fear of physical contact plays in cases of neurosis:
In our clinical history of a case we have insisted
that the imposition of the prohibition in very early childhood is
the determining point; a similar importance attaches in the subsequent
developments to the mechanism of repression at the same early age.
As a result of the repression which has been enforced and which involves
a loss of memory — an amnesia — the motives for the prohibition
(which is conscious) remain unknown; and all attempts at disposing
of it by intellectual processes must fail, since they cannot find
any base of attack. The prohibition owes its strength and its obsessive
character precisely to its unconscious opponent, the concealed and
undiminished desire — that is to say, to an internal necessity
inaccessible to conscious inspection. The ease with which the prohibition
can be transferred and extended reflects a process which falls in
with the unconscious desire and is greatly facilitated by the psychological
conditions that prevail in the unconscious. The instinctual desire
is constantly shifting in order to escape from the impasse and endeavours
to find substitutes — substitute objects and substitute acts
— in place of the prohibited ones. In consequence of this, the
prohibition itself shifts about as well, and extends to any new aims
which the forbidden impulse may adopt. Any fresh advance made by the
repressed libido is answered by a fresh sharpening of the prohibition.
The mutual inhibition of the two conflicting forces produces a need
for discharge, for reducing the prevailing tension; and to this may
be attributed the reason for the performance of obsessive acts. In
the case of a neurosis these are clearly compromise actions: from
one point of view they are evidences of remorse, efforts at expiation,
and so on, while on the other hand they are at the same time substitutive
acts to compensate the instinct for what has been prohibited. It is
a law of neurotic illness that these obsessive acts fall more and
more under the sway of the instinct and approach nearer and nearer
to the activity which was originally prohibited.
[ Note 8 ]
Considering the obsessions
involved in fear of physical contact, you can well imagine how it would
have been if Miss Sprengel, as a person suffering from this fear, had
ever been seen by a psychoanalyst who, in line with usual psychoanalytic
practice, would have questioned her about her fear of contact and tried
to discover what caused it.
A third factor I want to
emphasize is the relationship of Miss Sprengel to Mr. Goesch. According
to psychoanalytic theory, this relationship would of course be characterized
by the presence of repressed erotic thoughts. I mean that quite objectively…
[ Note 9 ]
At this point, my friends,
we must look a bit more closely at the whole system of psychoanalysis.
As I have just outlined for you, psychoanalysis lifts up into consciousness
certain “islands” in the unconscious psyche, and it assumes
that the majority of these islands are sexual in nature. The psychoanalyst's
task, then, is to reach down to the level of these early experiences
that have sunk into subconsciousness and lift them up again for purposes
of healing. According to Freudian theory, healing is brought about by
lifting hidden sexual complexes up from the depths of the subconscious
and making the person aware of them again. Whether this method is very
successful is a matter of much discussion in books on the subject.
As you can see, psychoanalysts'
thinking is often colored by an underlying pervasive sexuality, and
this is taken to extremes when psychoanalysis is applied to any and
all possible phenomena of human life. For example, Freud and his disciples
go so far as to interpret myths and legends psychoanalytically, tracing
them to repressed sexuality. Consider, for example, how they interpret
the story of Oedipus.
[ Note 10 ]
In brief, the content of this legend is that Oedipus is led to kill his
father and marry his mother. When psychoanalysts ask what this story
is based on, they conclude that such things always rest on unconscious,
repressed sexual complexes usually involving sexual experiences in earliest
childhood. The Freudians are firmly convinced that a child's relationship
to his or her father and mother is a sexual one right from birth, so
if the child is a boy, he must be unconsciously in love with his mother
and thus unconsciously or subconsciously jealous of his father.
At this point, my friends,
we might be tempted to say that these psychoanalysts, if they actually
believe in their own theory, should apply it to themselves first and
foremost, and admit that their own destiny and outlook stem from an
excess of repressed sexual processes experienced in childhood. Freud
and his disciples should apply this theory to themselves first. They
derive the Oedipus legend, for instance, from their assumption that
most little boys have an illicit emotional relationship to their mother
right from birth, and are thus jealous of their father. Thus, the boys'
father becomes their enemy and works on as such in their troubled imagination.
Later, however, they realize rationally that this relationship to their
mother is not permissible, and so it is repressed and becomes subconscious.
The boys then live out their lives without becoming aware of their forbidden
relationship to their mother and their adversarial relationship to their
father, whom they experience as a rival.
According to psychoanalytic
theory, then, what we need to do in cases of defective psyches is to
look for psychological complexes, and we will find that if these are
lifted up into consciousness, a cure can be effected. It's too bad that
I can't present these things in greater detail, but I will try to give
you as exact an outline of them as possible. On page 16 of the above-mentioned
book, for instance, you can read the following:
There has been little opportunity in the preceding
pages for showing how new light can be thrown upon the facts of social
psychology by the adoption of a psycho-analytic method of approach:
for the horror of incest displayed by savages has long been recognized
as such and stands in need of no further interpretation.
[ Note 11 ]
This essay explains why
primitive peoples so strictly enforce the ban on marrying one's mother
or sister and why relationships of this type are punished. “Incest”
is love for a blood-relative, and one of the first essays in this book
is entitled “The Horror of Incest.” This fear is explained
by assuming the existence of a tendency to incest on the part of each
male individual in the form of a forbidden relationship to his mother.
All that I have been able to add to our understanding
of it is to emphasize the fact that it is essentially an infantile
feature [that is, primitive people retain this for a lifetime, while
in civilized children it is repressed into the subconscious] and that
it reveals a striking agreement with the mental life of neurotic patients.
Psycho-analysis has taught us that a boy's earliest choice of objects
for his love is incestuous and that those objects are forbidden ones
— his mother and his sister. We have learnt, too, the manner
in which, as he grows up, he liberates himself from this incestuous
attraction. A neurotic, on the other hand, invariably exhibits some
degree of psychical infantilism. He has either failed to get free
from the psycho-sexual conditions that prevailed in his childhood
or he has returned to them — two possibilities which may be
summed up as developmental inhibition and regression. Thus incestuous
fixations of libido continue to play (or begin once more to play)
the principal part in his unconscious mental life. We have arrived
at the point of regarding a child's relation to his parents, dominated
as it is by incestuous longings, as the nuclear complex of neurosis.
Thus, according to psychoanalytic
theory, the central complex involved in neurosis is a boy's forbidden
sexual attraction for his mother and sister.
This revelation of the importance of incest in neurosis
is naturally received with universal skepticism by adults and normal
people. Similar expressions of disbelief, for instance, inevitably
greet the writings of Otto Rank, which have brought more and more
evidence to show the extent to which the interest of creative writers
centres round the theme of incest and how the same theme, in countless
variations and distortions, provides the subject-matter of poetry.
We are driven to believe that this rejection is principally a product
of the distaste which human beings feel for their early incestuous
wishes, now overtaken by repression. It is therefore of no small importance
that we are able to show that these same incestuous wishes, which
are later destined to become unconscious, are still regarded by savage
peoples as immediate perils against which the most severe measures
of defence must be enforced.
[ Note 12 ]
From this point of departure,
an atmosphere of sexuality spreads until it pervades the psychoanalysts'
whole field of activity. Their whole life is spent working with ideas
about sexuality. That is why psychoanalysis has been the biggest contributing
factor in making an unbelievable mockery of something quite natural
in human life. This has crept into our life gradually, without people
noticing it. I can sympathize deeply with an old gentleman by the name
of Moritz Benedikt (who spent his life trying to bring morality into
medicine) when he says that if you look around, you'll find that the
physicians of thirty years ago knew less about certain sexual abnormalities
than eighteen-year-old girls in boarding school do today.
[ Note 13 ]
This is the truth, and you can really empathize with this man.
I mention it in particular because it is really extremely important
to regard certain processes in children's lives as simply natural, without
having to see them in terms of sexuality right away.
Nowadays, these complicated
psychoanalytic theories lead us to label a lot of what children do as
sexually deviant, although most of it is totally innocent. In most cases,
it would be enough to regard these things as nothing more than childish
mischievousness that could be quite adequately treated with a couple
of smacks on a certain part of the anatomy. The worst possible way of
dealing with it, however, is to talk a lot about these things, especially
with the children themselves, and to put all kinds of theoretical ideas
in their heads. It is hard enough to talk about these things with grownups
with any degree of clarity. Unfortunately for people who are often called
upon to provide counseling, parents frequently come with all kinds of
complaints, including some really dumb ones, about how their children
suffer from sexual deviance. Their only basis for these complaints is
that the children scratch themselves. Now, there is no more sexuality
involved in scratching yourself anywhere else than there is in scratching
your arm. Dr. Freud, however, upholds the idea that any scratching or
touching, or even a baby's sucking a pacifier, is a sexual activity.
He spreads a mantle of sexuality over all aspects of human life.
It would be good for us
to look more closely at Freudian psychoanalysis in order to become aware
of the excesses of materialistic science; specifically, of those of
psychoanalysis in seeing everything in terms of sexuality. In a book
introduced by Dr. Freud, the Hungarian psychoanalyst Ferenczi writes
about the case of a five-year-old boy named Arpad.
[ Note 14 ]
There is no doubt in his mind as to the sources of Arpad's
interest in the goings-on in the chicken run:
The continual sexual activity
between the cock and hens, the laying of eggs and the hatching out
of the young brood gratified his sexual curiosity, the real object
of which was human family life. He showed that he had formed his own
choice of sexual objects on the model of life in the hen-run, for
he said one day to the neighbour's wife: “I'll marry you and
your sister and my three cousins and the cook; no, not the cook, I'll
marry my mother instead.”
[ Note 15 ]
We could wish for a return
of the days when it was possible to hear children say things like this
without immediately having to resort to such awkward sexual explanations.
I can only touch on this subject today, but I will discuss it at greater
length sometime in the near future in order to reassure all you fathers
[ Note 16 ]
But of course,
Freud's theory, which is spreading widely without people noticing it,
is only a symptom of a worldwide tendency. And when parents come with
the complaint that their four- or five-year-old sons or daughters are
suffering from sexual deviance, in most cases the appropriate response
is, “The only deviant thing in this case is your way of thinking
about it!” In most instances, that is really what's wrong.
My intention in telling
you all this has been to point out the kind of atmosphere Freudian psychoanalysis
is swimming in. I am well aware that the Freudians would take issue
with this brief characterization. But we are fully justified in saying
that psychoanalysis as a whole is positively dripping with this psychosexual
stuff, as its professional literature reveals.
Suppose the assumption that
psychosexual islands exist in the human subconscious actually proves
to be true in the case of a certain individual. A Freudian theorist
might subject that person to questioning and be able to add a new case
history to the annals of Freudian psychoanalytic theory. In the case
concerning us, Goesch might have undertaken this line of questioning
and made some discoveries among those psychosexual islands that would
have served to verify Freud's theories. But to do that, Goesch would
have needed to be stronger in his own soul. As it was, however, he succumbed
to a certain type of relationship to his new lady friend. The material
in our possession supplies ample evidence of this relationship and will
allow anyone who applies it in the right way to describe their relationship
with clinical, objective precision.
Since what can be learned
from a specific case is often of greater significance than the actual
case itself, let me point out that this case can lead us to the same
conclusions I presented in my essay, published in the
Vienna Clinical Review
in 1900, entitled “The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche as a
[ Note 17 ]
Notwithstanding all the contributions Nietzsche's genius made
to the world, it was necessary to point out that Nietzsche would be
misunderstood if the psychopathological factor in him were not taken
into account. It is important for our Society that psychopathological
elements not gain the upper hand, that they be eradicated from our minds
and seen in the right light so that psychopaths are not looked upon
as some kind of higher beings. That is why it is also important to see
the current case in the right light and assess what is actually involved
from the right standpoint.
It is already too late for
me to describe now at length how the storm developed. When I was in
Vienna in May of this year, one of our members wrote me a letter I had
to tear up on returning here, since taking letters across the border
is no longer allowed. This letter contained accusations very similar
to those raised by Goesch under the influence of Miss Sprengel and showing
a similar involvement in Freudian psychoanalysis. They came from the
same quarter; the same wind was blowing in both sets of accusations.
In fact, if I could have read you some sentences from that letter, they
would have sounded remarkably like what Miss Sprengel inspired in Goesch.
What, then, was actually
going on in the Goesch-Sprengel case? Goesch could not really function
as a psychoanalyst, because to do that his relationship to Miss Sprengel
would have had to be an objective one like that of a doctor to a patient.
Her influence on him was too overwhelming, however, and thus his involvement
in the examination was not fully conscious and objective. In Freudian
terms, everything at work in the psyche of his friend, the “keeper
of the seal,” came out, but since it sank down into Goesch's unconscious,
it was masked by the whole theory that came to light in his letter.
The Goesch-Sprengel case
grew out of one of the greatest mistakes and worst materialistic theories
of our time, and we can only deal with it by realizing that both people
involved threw a mantle of secrecy over their human, all-too-human relationships.
In essence, this consisted of shrouding their relationship in Freudian
psychoanalytic theories, as the documents very clearly reveal.
When we attempt to help
people who come to us in such a confused psychological state, they are
often fawning, enthusiastic supporters to begin with, but later on their
adulation changes into enmity. That, too, can be explained in psychoanalytic
terms. However, our most urgent concern at the moment is our relationship
to the rest of the world. Just as we are now experiencing hostility
coming from the direction of psychoanalysis, steeped as it is in sexuality,
we can expect to encounter at any moment new opposition from all kinds
of aberrations resulting from other all-too-human impulses.
This shows us that we must
study such cases; they should be of great interest to us precisely because
our Society represents a spiritual movement. I could speak at much greater
length on this subject, but I must stop for today because you need to
get on with your deliberations. I simply wanted to point out the first
tentative steps we must take in seeing where the dangers for our movement
lie and how urgent it is that we all do as much as we can to help the
world out there learn that we are not chicken-livered. We know how to
stand up for ourselves. When things come up in disguise as they did
in this letter, we must rip off the mask and expose where they come
from. Their origins lie much deeper than we usually think; they originate
in the materialistic outlook of our times, which has not only become
the dominant view in science but has contaminated our life as a whole.
Combating it is our movement's very reason for existence, but we must
keep our eyes wide open and see what is going on in the world. We must
recognize what the people coming to us have learned out in the world
and what they bring with them when they come to us.