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Klauber, J. (1974). Notes on the Psychical Roots of Religion, with Particular Reference to the Development of Western Christianity. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 55:249-255.

(1974). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 55:249-255

Notes on the Psychical Roots of Religion, with Particular Reference to the Development of Western Christianity

John Klauber

Freud's genius lay in his understanding of the importance of fantasy formation for the fate of the individual. But his grasp of its importance for society in terms of the mythopoetic function of religion was much weaker.

In the least convincing strand in Freud's writings on religion he saw it as 'patently infantile' and 'the obsessional neurosis of mankind'. However, he became dissatisfied with his failure in 'The Future of an Illusion' (1927) to account for the high value set on religion by the individual and by society, and tried to remedy it in 'Civilization and its Discontents' (1930) by suggesting that the glory of God might have its psychical roots in the child's impressions of the power of his father. He confessed himself puzzled by the psychical roots of the great mother deities who seemed everywhere to have preceded the father gods. The most satisfactory strand in Freud's views on religion was his recognition of the importance of myth for the transmission of culture. This was expounded particularly in his last work ('Moses and Monotheism', 1939), but his whole theory of society ('Totem and Taboo', 1913) was a modern version of the theory of the social contract making religion its cement. The psychical roots of Christianity, the religion which has dominated our culture for sixteen centuries, Freud virtually ignored; and in spite of notable exceptions, such as Erich Fromm (1963) and Theodor Reik (1958), most psychoanalysts have done the same since.

The importance of religion as a cement of society seems to be illustrated by the high social status conceded to religious organizations and leaders—at least until recently.

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