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Brierley, M. (1967). Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition: By David Bakan. (London: Bailey Bros. & Swinfen; New York: Schocken Books. 1965. Pp. 326. xxi 17s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 48:470-471.

(1967). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 48:470-471

Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition: By David Bakan. (London: Bailey Bros. & Swinfen; New York: Schocken Books. 1965. Pp. 326. xxi 17s.)

Review by:
Marjorie Brierley

This is the first Schocken paperback edition of a book published by the Van Nostrand Company in 1958.

The author is dissastisfied with the explanations so far offered of the factors which enabled Freud to create psycho-analysis. For him the major question is: Against what backdrop of the history of ideas shall we place these momentous contributions of Freud?. This book provides Bakan's evidence that the answer is to be found in the tradition of Jewish mysticism i.e. "that Freud's repeated affirmation of his Jewish identity had greater significance for the development of psycho-analysis than is usually recognized." As he says "In the course of this essay, we have attempted in various ways to show the possibility of an essentially unrevealed and perhaps unconscious Jewish base to the developments in Freud's thought." In the transition from neurology to psychology "Freud, so to speak, made contact with the Jewish mystical tradition as it was part and parcel of his personality and culture."

It seems odd at first to associate Freud and mysticism but it has to be remembered that his birth-place was a centre of Chassidism (the then current form of Jewish mysticism) and that he read the Bible with his father, as is shown by the letter accompanying the father's gift of this particular Bible to Freud on his 35th birthday. The religious atmosphere of the home (Catholic nurse notwithstanding) must have had considerable effect and, so far as intellectual development is concerned, the ideas expressed in the home circle must have provided Freud with his first food for thought.

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