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Schneider, S. (2005). The blind man sees: Freud's awakening and other essays By Neville Symington London: Karnac. 2004. 226 pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):934-937.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(3):934-937

The blind man sees: Freud's awakening and other essays By Neville Symington London: Karnac. 2004. 226 pp.

Review by:
Stanley Schneider

This book consists of ‘a series of (eighteen) papers [‘essays’ in the sub-title] written over a period of fifteen years, relating to the proposition that psychoanalysis is a scientific religion’ (p. ix). These papers are acknowledged by the author to have been ‘written at different times’ (p. x), but, unfortunately, only nine have any attribution either in regard to date or forum of presentation. I am aware (purely by happenstance) of the publication of only one of them (chapter 14), but this does not impact upon the fact that others may have been published in whole or part.

With that as an introductory statement, let me move on to the essence and substance of the book, and its thesis and theoretical premise. Symington is a well-published, articulate psychoanalyst who is gifted in his ability to recognise and identify interesting clinical and social phenomena, explain the issues in a lucid and clear manner, and suffuse his theoretical framework with interesting clinical vignettes. That is both the strength and weakness of this book. The author is trying to show the importance of the concepts of religion and spirituality, and of their interface with psychoanalysis. Symington does not shy away from the over-rigidity of psychoanalysts and their fear in dealing with anything that ‘smells’ religious or spiritual. The overindulgent liberal psychoanalytic theocracy has spent years misinterpreting and deliberately obfuscating Freud's ambivalence regarding religion, spirituality and the soul; or, as Bettelheim (1984) would term it, Freud and man's soul. This is a holdover from Freud's own issues with religion, religious practice and his incessant fear that psychoanalysis, as a science, would not be accepted if only Jews were identified with it.

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