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Holland, N.N. (1989). Massonic Wrongs. Am. Imago, 46(4):329-352.

(1989). American Imago, 46(4):329-352

Massonic Wrongs

Norman N. Holland, Ph.D.

A great hullabaloo in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Atlantic Monthly, and Psychology Today1 announced in the winter of 1983-84 Jeffrey Masson's forthcoming book2 and his new edition of Freud's letters to Wilhelm Fliess.3 Hardly the stuff of headlines, one would think, but Masson had just been fired as secretary of the Freud Archives. He was persuading many of his hearers that the Freud establishment was trying to hush up something scandalous he had ferreted out of previously censored Fliess letters, in which Freud revealed his innermost thoughts during the time he was inventing psychoanalysis: “I adduce a large number of new facts that were unknown before, or simply unnoticed, to support my opinion that Freud gave up this theory, not for theoretical or clinical reasons, but because of a personal failure of courage.”4

What theory? That is the question.

At a moment in history when the women's movement had attained new vigor and when outrage over the sexual violation of women and children had risen to new levels, Masson claimed that Freud, out of cowardice, had refused to accept his female patients' claims that they had been abused by their fathers and other male relatives. Needless to say, there was plenty of animus against Freud just waiting to be tapped from traditional psychologists, feminists, and plain old middlebrows. Masson found many a willing ear, and Janet Malcom's articles in the New Yorker gave him immense publicity, although she also portrayed Masson as a man of doubtful veracity and certainly few scruples where women were concerned.


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