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Rickman, J. (1957). VIII. Sigmund Freud: A Personal Impression (1939). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 52(1):59-60.

(1957). The International Psycho-Analytical Library, 52(1):59-60

VIII. Sigmund Freud: A Personal Impression (1939) Book Information Previous Up Next

John Rickman, M.D.

In Professor Freud two characteristics were present in the highest degree: his friendly simplicity towards one as a human being and the prodigious power of his mind. The combination of these qualities made one feel to be in the company of a new kind of being—an ideal for human nature. Freud accepted his transcendent intellectual gifts as a phenomenon of nature, a thing neither to be personally proud of nor of course concealed; they belonged as much to the universe as to himself. Lesser men might have used such power for their own aggrandisement, but he was immune to the temptation because his protagonists were not his fellows but the obscurities in human nature. The confusion in man's mind was an affront to him and he set about to get to terms with his enemy. Characteristically, and here he gave a lead to his followers and to the world, he turned first to the obscurity of his own mental processes, patiently exploring that seemingly chaotic and unprofitable region—the world of dreams. He always referred to the results of this ten years of labour as a piece of good fortune that was not likely to come twice in a lifetime and seemed to be grateful to the generosity of nature for disclosing to him such valuable secrets. He gave the rest of his life, from about forty onwards, to the detailed working out and consequences of the laws he had in fact himself discovered. That such discoveries were changing the outlook of psychiatry, anthropology and sociology, giving a new understanding of the forces in art and religion, and indeed likely to change the mental outlook of the human race, was but evidence of his good luck to be in at the beginning of a new world of thought. He knew full well the part he had played in bringing about the changes, but never forgot how small was his discovery compared to the infinity of detail and complexity into which some day order must be brought.

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