"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Other Welsh Wizard

On a lark I picked up a copy of Brenda Maddox's Freud's Wizard: Ernest Jones and the Transformation of Psychoanalysis (De Capo, 2008), 372pp. at Hyde Brothers, a wonderful used book store here in Ft. Wayne. Neither the book nor my comments have anything to do with Eastern Christianity directly but it arises out of my ongoing interest in seeing what use psychoanalytic thought still offers us today 100 years after Freud's most popular work, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis were completed, and 90 years after his rather silly but nonetheless influential Future of an Illusion was published. That latter work was, of course, his broadside against religious belief, which is held to be nothing more then a species of wish-fulfillment and an illusory wish for a powerful father-figure to protect us from the vagaries and violence of a nature thought by Freud to be terrifyingly red in tooth and claw. I will have more to say about both in public lectures I've been asked to give later this year.

But back to Maddox's book, which was a wonderfully fun book to read and so I want to draw attention to it for those who may be interested, not merely for what it reveals about the politics of the first generation around Freud, but also for some interesting, and often amusing, potted histories of, e.g., the early Canadian medical establishment and the arrival of psychoanalysis to Toronto, and then especially of Wales. He felt that the Welsh were far more open about sex, and far less preoccupied with capitalist pursuits, than either the English or the North Americans.

Jones was Welsh, and while he lived for a time in Canada (in exile, it seems, after charges of sexual harassment began piling up in London) and England, he returned to Wales and kept a house there, and saw that Welsh history could be useful in resisting some of the imperial depredations of the English.

As non-Americans, both he and Freud shared a kind of envious disdain of the newly emerging great power, which in their correspondence they both mocked for its sexual prudery. Jones was very much someone who saw himself as spreading Freud's greatness in North America, and so he arranged the famous 1909 trip for the great man from Vienna to give a series of lectures at Clark University. After this, when safely back in Vienna, Freud did not look fondly on America for its obsession with money, its fast-pace, its food, its attitudes towards sex and drink, writing to Jones: "Yes, America is gigantic. A gigantic mistake"!

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