Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud; drawing by David Levine

What it Did






I dolatry




The only memorable scene in HD’s otherwise muzzy, self-absorbed memoirs of the Professor, mainly taken from two series of meetings she had with him in 1933-1934 when Freud was seventy-seven, occurs during an analytic session. Evidently the deeper fish weren’t rising and HD was simply dimpling the surface with her toes. Suddenly Freud begins to beat on the headboard of the horsehair sofa she’d been reclining and reminiscing on till his fist roused her. “The trouble is—I am an old man—you do not think it worth your while to love me.”

As Roazen observes, Freud was fifty years old before any of his famous followers came to court. He knew what the lure of maturity was, the accomplishment of a completed self and the magic of a man who has been vouchsafed revelations, not to mention the attraction, too, of someone with livelihoods for sale. But a cancerous old codge—could a libidinous transference be effected for such a precariously pale, jaw-gnawed sage? And can we achieve it today with these spousely familiar texts? how shall they startle our understanding with more than the hammer of an old man’s rage?

Paul Roazen’s present book on Freud is clearly the result of research he undertook for Brother Animal, a fuller and less cautious description of Freud’s friendship and falling-out with Victor Tausk than appears in Freud and His Followers.1 The earlier study is an extended account of this discipleship, and Tausk’s suicide in 1919 forms the dramatic center of a kind of biographical whodunit. Roazen was rightly excited by the material his researches began to unearth and the “new not so nice” Freud who began to appear out of the dark fog of flattery and reticence which had always shielded him before—hulking a little, I’m afraid, like a menacing figure in another bad Hitchcock film. Freud had warts. Was he the whole toad?

The man defined by these volumes is said to be a warm and courageous genius, an inspiring teacher, an amusing storyteller and understanding companion, a source of wisdom and example of pure dedication; but he is shown to be aloof, vain, proud, tyrannical, unforgiving and vindictive, suspicious, jealous—in short, a quite unpleasant neurotic. In that difference lies the bias of both books.

Brother Animal is a disturbing work, not because it is critical of Freud while pretending, as Freud and His Followers also does, to be “objective,” or because it absurdly overvalues Tausk’s talent, or even because the conclusion we are asked to come to is that Freud was a seriously responsible factor in Tausk’s suicide (a charge, to this reader, more than totally unproved), but because of its very questionable biographical methods. Roazen’s use of quotation, the beautiful placement of his omissions, the implicit and often fluctuating judgments, his style (which might be described as a conscious stream of insinuation and unscrupulous contrivance), and his almost total avoidance of substantive issues, were together so outrageous that they provoked K.R. Eissler to a book-length refutation.2

Roazen’s treatment of Lou Andreas-Salomé is typical, and a few passages can provide a good example of the differences between the two books.

Brother Animal

Lou fits the genre of women who have a knack of collecting great men. Madame de Staël in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and Alma Mahler in the 20th illustrate the type. In Lou’s case beauty was not her main attraction. Whatever her earlier good looks, she now had to rely on her psychological resources to arouse the attention of any potential conquests. [P. 33]

Freud and His Followers

Lou was of the genre of women who have a knack for collecting great men. Whatever her earlier good looks, she now had to rely on her psychological resources to arouse the attention of any potential conquests. [P. 314]

Eissler points out quite correctly that Alma Mahler and Madame de Staël are not parallel cases; that neither Nietzsche nor Rilke was famous when she was intimate with them; that she in fact preferred Nietzsche’s friend Rée; that in Vienna she was most attracted to Richard Beer-Hofmann (who?) and that it was perfectly reasonable for a woman “whose mind was equal to that of the greatest of her times” to find pleasure in the company of the gifted. Victor Tausk, incidentally, is still not famous.

Roazen weaves passages from Brother Animal in and out of Freud and His Followers (like the first sentence starred below, which also strangely happens to be true), dropping some of his more offensive remarks, but certainly not all of them.

Brother Animal

Although Lou was useful to her line of great men precisely because she could identify with that most precious portion of themselves so in need of support, as men fell in love with her they eventually discovered that she had not truly given of herself. She had mirrored them, had helped their creative need, but at bottom Lou withheld herself as a person. Her great men all needed her, but each of her lovers ultimately realized how she had eluded him. [P. 34]

Freud and His Followers

  • Vibrantly responsive to ideas, she possessed an extraordinary flair for identifying with men, and especially with that creative part of them most subject to inner uncertainties.* [Brother Animal, p. 33] But as men fell in love with her they eventually discovered that she had not truly given of herself. She had mirrored them, had helped their creative need, but had withheld herself as a person. They all needed her, but ultimately they realized that she had eluded them. [Pp. 314-315]

That she withheld herself is so palpably untrue in the case of Rilke, for example, with whom she remained in long, magnificent, and truly helpful correspondence until his death, that one wonders at the cause of this gratuitous malice.


Brother Animal

For the year 1912-13, however, Freud, Lou, and Tausk established a triangle which had advantages for each. Lou had recurrently had two men in her life simultaneously. She had married Friedrich Carl Andreas after he had threatened to kill himself otherwise; but she slept only with other men. Before Lou was married she had used another man against Nietzsche. (Nietzsche’s sister considered her a devil.) Lou, Rilke, and Andreas traveled to Russia as a threesome. And now she had a physical relation with Tausk, alongside her deep involvement with Freud.

For Freud the arrangement had frustrations as well as satisfactions. He was jealous of Tausk’s opportunity to have an affair with Lou. Tausk was much younger, more virile, and altogether a larger man physically…. On the other hand, Lou could give Freud information about Tausk. She could help keep this potentially troublesome student under control. [Pp. 45-46]

Freud and His Followers

For the period 1912-13 Freud, Lou, and Tausk established a triangle which had advantages for each. Lou often had had two men in her life simultaneously. For Freud the arrangement had frustrations as well as satisfactions. He was jealous of Tausk’s opportunity to have an affair with Lou. Tausk was younger, more virile, and altogether a larger man physically. On the other hand, Lou could give Freud information about Tausk, to help keep this potentially troublesome student under control.For both men she was a buffer. [P. 315]

That Freud was jealous of Tausk’s physical intimacy with Lou is not supported by any evidence; that he used that intimacy to control Tausk (the Machiavellian suggestion) is not supported by any evidence; that Lou used Rée against Nietzsche is a wholly unfair description of that complex affair; the reference to Nietzsche’s sister is especially sly since she was notoriously jealous and unreliable. One may say: small matters, minor details. But they multiply. They comprise a whole forest of whispers in a slanderous wind.3 In Brother Animal Lou is described as fitting perfectly into a passive role, and in both books Roazen writes that

She could flatter him and still believe everything she said. A woman can more easily dissociate her sense of self from her professional work; so to give Freud what he wanted in no way compromised her integrity. [FF, p. 315, BA p. 48]

In chapter 9 of the Followers, which is entitled “The Women,” and devoted to Brunswick, Deutsch, Klein, and Anna Freud, the condescension evident in the passage I’ve just quoted becomes epidemic.

The characterization of Lou Salomé as passive is, of course, ludicrous. For a while friends referred to Rilke as the Lou-man; the poet Gerhart Hauptmann wryly remarked that he was too stupid for Lou; she rejected her husband’s sexuality, held Rée at arm’s length, dispensed wisdom like a Lama, shocked society everywhere with her forwardness. Finally, it is she who kneels in the cart and cracks the whip while Rée and Nietzsche pretend to pull it in that joking Lucerne photograph. What is apparently unforgivable about Lou is that as a woman, in all her relationships, she resolutely remained her own man.

Much of the new material which makes Freud and His Followers such an interesting book comes from interviews with people who knew Freud personally, either as patient or pupil, and from those others who closely participated in the movement or were long-standing students of it. Roazen describes in detail his interview techniques, and we learn from this that he did not use a tape recorder but began from prepared questions, took notes, allowed the interview to develop spontaneously when that seemed advisable, and reconstructed the conversation later. Sometimes it was not possible to take any notes at all. While there were obvious and good reasons for adopting the procedures he did, what Roazen was in fact collecting was a mass of material, mostly gossip and reminiscence, colored by personality, dimmed by time, fabricated by weakness and shaped by self-interest, which he then had not only to remember and accurately record himself, but cross-check and evaluate against solider documentation and that less steady but always weighty body of received opinion.

He was fishing, moreover, in a sea of serpents. There were questions of loyalty and disloyalty, rectitude and competence, originality and theft; there were profound jealousies, clever concealments, and human imbroglios like hopeless snags of hair. The truth of a theory is the last thing to matter when ideas become traits of character. Gossip engulfs everything. Did indeed Freud emerge from his consulting room with a visible erection? What did Ferenczi’s kisses and cuddles come to? Did James J. Putnam fix the seat on his daughter’s bicycle lest she be unduly stimulated? Did Tausk once test a woman’s genitals for sensation with a galvanic rod?


Analysts had affairs with patients or with one another. One of Freud’s sons took up with a patient of his father’s. Confidences were breached. Since every prospective analyst had to be analyzed, too much became known about too many, daisy chains of secrets—of private mouth put to confidential ear, of understanding stimulated to uneasiness, of fear brought on to brotherly betrayal—soon were formed. Out of this even the fairest and most dispassionate mind must come covered with some slime, some self-serving subjectivity, the button of a weakness pressed once too often, perhaps outraged by an attitude or alliance, comforted by a kind concealment close to home.

Freud was strait-laced, “old-fashioned,” insisted on protocol, ran his household by the clock; but it is clear that he had to, in his position. He was doubtless too continuously aware of who he was, but he needed that knowledge to hold himself together. In him, career and character happily coincided. He had his weaknesses (chronicled here), but he did not sexually profit from the illnesses of his patients; he had his weaknesses, but he did not borrow his ideas from others—he did not follow; he grew old, became ill but never uncreative; he had his weaknesses, but he did not (very often) violate the confidences of the couch; never did his ambition or his pride leave him; he had his weaknesses and among them was an intense dislike of weakness itself, so that his humaneness (and one has only to read him to see it) constituted an extraordinary display of strength.

Although the ideas at stake in Freud’s break with Jung or Adler (for example) are referred to, the intellectual pros and cons are never pursued very deeply, and thus the impression is unfortunately given that personal pique, envy, spite, and fear principally widened these divisions; that the ideological differences were merely screens behind which cowered men of small stature and shorter organs. Roazen tends to come down gently on the side of the dissidents by reminding us how frequently present-day analysts would agree with this or that inanity on the part of one of them.

Occasionally the book causes us to forget, too, how little Freud’s followers were his equals, gifted as many of them were. That is why one has to compare texts (compare minds, compare precisions, compare depths), and if Freud sometimes had the impression that his ideas were in loose hands; that he had given away a method which was now being used willy-nilly to draw his image on every blank page and open possibility about; if he felt that those who had come to him to have their minds filled then, with rebuilt egos and rejuvenated arrogance, used the position he had given them to “revise” his ideas in a way directly counter to the spirit and premises which presumably had drawn them to him in the first place; if this gave him a feeling of treachery and ingratitude, it is understandable; if he felt that his pupils had purchased their wisdom cheaply, it was understandable; if he wondered at their lack of rigor, or their readiness to profit from his ideas while rejecting their ground, it was understandable; why should he appreciate their mucking about ahead of him, planting flags with his maps and declaring whole countries to be colonies of kings and queens he couldn’t stand? and be pleased as he watched Adler try to capture Freudianism for the clergy, or Jung drag his doctrines into the realm of mythopoeic nonsense?

For Freud did not forget, could not forget, and restated it with classic concision and directness in his final work, the radical nature of his enterprise, the rich real ground of its beginnings, first in the biology of the body, and then in the language of the instincts, and finally in the early and decisive influence of the family. So it is not surprising that he grew proprietory and testy, and wanted orthodoxy, and was grateful for gratitude and loyalty, and feared for the future of the movement he had founded. He was right to worry: the history of psychoanalysis has been the same as the history of scotch whiskey; there’s no more burr beneath that blandness either.

Forgetfulness is the subject of Russell Jacoby’s Social Amnesia. It is Freud who has been forgotten. His theories have been repressed. Whether Freud’s views are true or not, it is evident that most of Freud’s followers do not desire them to be. They are quite friendly, these followers, as the ego is to the id, but really Freud should not be allowed to say what he says (they say); surely there is a more acceptable way to phrase matters than he’s found (they insist); there is a brighter prospect to be had (they believe).

It is as if, to the sentences of the inside self which I have previously described (NYR, May 1), Fromm, Reich, Horney, Sullivan, or Adler operators were applied, one to repress or substitute, another to turn the theory back upon itself, another to reverse both voice and value, so that, first, Freud’s scientific materialism is rejected as “old-fashioned” and “a product of the late 19th century”; then his unseemly emphasis on sexuality, always an embarrassment, is said to be “extreme”; the concept of the unconscious, always hard, is avoided; then his stress on instinct and the determinations of the past, so discouraging, is set aside as interfering with our productive adjustment to the present; his notion of the death wish, so unpleasant, is attacked as romantic; the burden of responsibility he places on the person, so grim, so heavy, is transferred to the back of an ass; his obstinate insistence on the importance of theory, so useless to the patient or the purse, for that matter, of the therapist, is simply ignored on the monthly statement.

And in the place of these poor middle-class Viennese views, according to Jacoby (wouldn’t the old man have snarled a whole cigar between the interstices of his teeth?), are put vague pragmatisms, moralizing self-help, and an opportunistic and saccharine liberalism designed to maintain the individual’s ability to function in an oppressive social system without coming explosively apart.

So if one were to ask what had happened to analysis in the hands of its followers, the answer would have to be that it had become Chautauqua’d.

So Social Amnesia is a polemical attack on what Jacoby calls “conformist psychology.” Often witty, and like polemics a pleasure when you generally agree, it sometimes sprawls full length across its similes:

The last preserves of the autonomous individual are under siege. Today human relations are irregulars and seconds at the closing days of the warehouse sale of life. The lines form because everyone knows the rest is junk; all that remains are the remains. [P. 17]

Jacoby characterizes Adler nastily. I laugh and I agree. But he doesn’t do enough more than I am doing here. He says so…and he says so…. Like zeros, say-sos don’t sum. He quotes, again Adler for instance:

“All failures,…neurotics, psychotics, criminals, drunkards, problem children, suicides, perverts and prostitutes,…[are] failures because they are lacking in fellow feeling and social interest. They approach the problems of occupation, friendship and sex without the confidence that they can be solved by cooperation.”

and assumes that Adler’s imbecility will be evident. Alas, it has not been.

Although he follows the lead of Marcuse, whose criticism of neo-Freudians like Fromm in Eros and Civilization was among the earliest,4 he is able to make use of the entire Frankfurt school (Marcuse, of course, and Horkheimer as well as Adorno), and at this later time enlarge the number of his targets to include the so-called post-Freudians—Allport, Maslow, and Rogers—some existentialists, and finally even R. D. Laing and David Cooper.

The Frankfurt thinkers quite overpower the opponents they are pitted against, but the writings of this group, as well as that of many other Marxists, tend too often to travel from label to label and ism to ism, from opponents’ error to enemies’ mistake, with the noise and ferocity of a barbarian beating his shield with his sword—that is, with more clangor than clarity—until one feels there might be better results in future if they (and their followers) were forced to express themselves only with words like banana, hausfrau, watchchain, and colorguard.

Jacoby is appropriately critical of traditional Marxism, too, as the Frankfurt school has been, and he has been particularly careful to keep his concept of consciousness dialectical. Crucial to his book, and in many ways its best part, is his assessment of the role of therapy in the psychoanalytic movement. Incidentally, this is one of the better features of Roazen’s book too. He fully exposes Freud’s doubts about (and even disinterest in) therapy, though I suspect this attitude is regarded as still another shortcoming.

In blunt and in brief: for Freud the self is an accumulation of encounters between instinct and society, and from the first encounter on the libido has been bent by power like a hairpin. The world which the ego feels it must accommodate desire to is composed of lies and illusion laid down like law. Society itself is a structured set of individuals who have been socially deformed. Freud is fierce about this: not even the members of a mob will be permitted to escape into a collective anonymity. They simply regress together.

Think of the colossal brutality, cruelty and mendacity which is now allowed to spread itself over the civilized world [Freud writes concerning the First World War]. Do you really believe that a handful of unprincipled placehunters and corrupters of men would have succeeded in letting loose all this latent evil, if the millions of their followers were not also guilty?5

Illnesses arise when the ego is unable to find allowable ways to reduce tension. Surface therapy is designed to help the ego do just that. We can compliment ourselves on our cures. Meanwhile, the same mothers lean over the crib the way centers crouch over their ball, and society, as we suffer from it, is preserved.

Of course Freud hoped to help people, but he valued his clinical practice principally because it gave him data. His movement lived upon the therapeutic promises it made, and he remained uneasy about the purity of his intentions. More than the implications of analysis itself, it made him prickly and unsure about the motives of others. Would an understanding as demanding as Spinoza had asked for enable many to rise and walk?

“My discoveries are a basis for a very grave philosophy.” Well, Freud knew how necessary it would be for psychoanalysis to free itself from its enemies—religion (even that of his forefathers), many forms of metaphysics, the literature he loved and had a knack for, the medicine he practiced—before his boast could be realized. Not because religion, literature, or medicine were themselves enemies of anything, but because his theories became bent in their service, as altered as Boyle’s Law would be as an account of pipelines, sales, or metered service. Inside them, as one of them, his position lost its identity as a profoundly important, though admittedly partial, criticism of society. Open to physiology at one end and to linguistics at the other, everywhere sympathetic with the most rigorous formal programs of natural science, Freudianism is beginning to emerge at last as one of the most complete and vigorous statements of rational materialism philosophy has yet had the pleasure to challenge and ponder.

But where am I? Into what subject have I rushed? What have I to do with Nuns, Maids, Virgins, Widows? I am a Bachelor myself,” Burton writes, “and lead a Monastick life in a College…. And yet,” he says, “I must and will say something more, add a word or two on behalf of Maids and Widows, in favour of all such distressed parties,” for did they not begin the whole business? “So,” Burton continues in a manner which could not over several hundred years be improved upon, “must I needs inveigh against them that are in fault…and as bitterly tax those tyrannizing pseudo-politicians’ superstitious orders, rash vows, hard hearted parents, guardians, unnatural friends, allies…so to bind and enforce men and women to vow virginity, to lead a single life against the laws of nature, opposite to religion, policy, and humanity, so to starve, to offer violence to, to suppress the vigour of youth!… Stupid Politicians! ought these things so to be carried?… They will by all means quench their neighbour’s house, if it be on fire, but that fire of lust, which breaks out into such lamentable flames, they will not take notice of, their own bowels oftentimes, flesh and blood, shall so rage and burn, and they will not see it…. For let them but consider what fearful maladies, feral diseases, gross inconveniences, come to both sexes by this enforced temperance. It troubles me to think of, much more to relate, those frequent aborts & murdering of infants in their Nunneries…their notorious fornications, those male-prostitutes, masturbators, strumpets, &c., those rapes, incests, adulteries, sodomies, buggeries, of Monks and Friars…. I know their ordinary apologies and excuses for these things, but let the Politicians, the Doctors, and Theologians look out: I shall more opportunely meet with them elsewhere.”

This Issue

May 15, 1975