Highly speculative re-imagining of the Moses myth as well as a general account of primitive religions and the transition to a monotheistic platform. I'm not sure why Freud is concerned about Moses's race. I would think most modern scholars reject the very existence of Moses.
for a short period of time, had the Pharaoh Akhenaten who proclaimed
that their existed one God. This may have been an attempt to draw a
similarity between God and his own rule. That there is one god means
that there should be one dominant ruler of society; Freud puts this more
elegantly saying, "God was the reflection of a Pharaoh autocratically
governing a great world Empire.". After his death Egypt reverted to
their previous many-gods stuff. So, anyways, perhaps it is the case that
Moses stole that idea.
Freud dives into the explanation of
religious phenomena as a model of neurotic symptoms of the individual.
(he also does some weird transition from the causes of these symptoms in
the individual to groups of people; going so far as to suggest that
people have generational memory. Thus we identify with 'God' because our
primitive selves identified with the Father of a tribe.)
of Freud's psycho-analytic techniques used are lost on me. I enjoy the
idea of the neurotic stages though: "early trauma - defense - latency -
outbreak of the neurosis - partial return of the repressed material." I
just don't see it working as simply as he posits it to work on a whole
race of people.
There is an interesting history concerning the
publication of this book. Freud wrote the first two small parts and
published them in Germany. These consist of the speculation that Moses
is Egyptian and the significance that may hold. Due to the rise of the
Nazis, Freud feared to release the third, more significant and risque,
part of the book. He left to England and eventually published it, still
in fear that he would lose valuable friends over the ordeal. Now, based
on the fact that Freud died in the same year as Freud died, I doubt he
felt much negative impact from the publication. He states in 1938, while
still in Vienna, "[the book] may lie hid until the light of day, or
until someone else who reaches the same opinions and conclusions can be
told: 'In darker days there lived a man who thought as you did.'"
think Freud thinks too highly of his psychological process for
determining history. Just because something makes 'psychological sense'
does not mean that it occurred. Freud treats psycho-analysis like we
would now treat physics, or any of the more testable and reliable
sciences. I think this book works better as an interesting literary
speculation and interpretation of unreliable historical texts and
inferences drawn from archeology and biology.