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Vermorel, H. (2009). The Presence of Spinoza in the Exchanges between Sigmund Freud and Romain Rolland. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(6):1235-1254.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(6):1235-1254

The Presence of Spinoza in the Exchanges between Sigmund Freud and Romain Rolland

Henri Vermorel

(Final version accepted 13 May 2009)

Although Freud recognized his profound affinity with Spinoza, we seldom find explicit and direct references to the philosopher in his works. The correspondence between Romain Rolland, the ‘Christian without a church’, and Freud, the ‘atheist Jew,’ is full of Spinozian reminiscences that nourish their works of this period and are underpinned by their mutual transference. The Future of an Illusion is written according to a Spinozian blueprint and aims at replacing religion, qualified as superstition, by psychoanalysis. A quotation from Heine, ‘brother in unbelief’, is a direct reference to Spinoza. Concurring with Freud's critiques of dogmas and churches, Rolland proposes an analysis of the ‘oceanic feeling’ as a basis of the religious sentiment. Freud replies with Civilization and Its Discontents. In 1936, on the occasion of Rolland's 70th birthday, Freud sends him an open letter, A disturbance of memory on the Acropolis, where the strange feeling that he has experienced in front of the Parthenon refers inter alia to his double culture: Jewish and German. In the light of this correspondence, the creation of psychoanalysis turns out to be a quest for the sacred that has disappeared in modernity; Freud, though, was able to find it inside man's unconscious.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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