Agape vs Eros Part 3: Sigmund Freud

4/21/15, by Clement Pulaski

This post is taken from chapter 22 of my book Weep Over Jerusalem, which can be downloaded here.
Part 1 of the series
Part 2 of the series


Just like Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) employed pseudo-scientific arguments in favor of rebellion against God's law. But rather than focusing on economics, Freud focused on (and greatly influenced) the young science of psychology. With the rise of atheism in the 19th century, men sought for something to fill the void left by abandoning Christian doctrine. While 19th century man made great advances in physics, chemistry and biology, these sciences could not provide any answers to the questions of morality and the meaning of life. Psychology was an attempt to provide a “scientific” approach to these issues. As Christians, we know that any attempt to answer these ultimate questions without relying on revelation will inevitably fail. It is therefore no surprise that the empty farce of psychology provided the perfect avenue for deception and sin. And once again, a Jew was Satan's lead henchman.

I will do my best to avoid the sickening details of Freud's disgusting sexual theories. (Any reader who wishes to do so can easily find more information on Freud's ridiculous and unfounded theories about Castration Anxiety, Penis Envy, and the like). I will focus instead on how Freud used these theories in an attempt to undermine the Christian worldview and justify extreme hedonism and selfishness.

Near the end of his life, Freud wrote Civilization and Its Discontents, in which he succinctly expressed the conclusions of his psychological research and its implications for human society. Freud explicitly rejects the validity of selfless, compassionate love (Agape), and leaves selfish, irrational desire (Eros) as the only true source of happiness. This rejection of Agape and embrace of Eros inevitably leads to the destruction of all that is truly good in human life.

Freud's definition of happiness is purely hedonistic. Happiness is merely the enjoyment of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, based on what Freud calls the “pleasure principle”:

[Humans] strive after happiness; they want to become happy and to remain so. This endeavour has two sides, a positive and a negative aim. It aims, on the one hand, at an absence of pain and unpleasure, and, on the other, at the experiencing of strong feelings of pleasure. In its narrower sense the word 'happiness' only relates to the last... As we can see, what decides the purpose of life is simply the programme of the pleasure principle. (Civilization and Its Discontents. Translated by James Strachey. W.W. Norton and Company, 1961. Page 25.)

But for Freud, not all pleasures are equal. There is one pleasure in particular that he puts above all others: the pleasure of sex. of the forms in which loves manifests itself—sexual love—has given us our most intense experience of an overwhelming sensation of pleasure and has thus furnished us with a pattern for our search for happiness. What is more natural than that we should persist in looking for happiness along the path on which we first encountered it? (Ibid. Page 33)

From these two simple statements, it is easy to see that for Freud, happiness = sex, and that sexual pleasure is the primary factor in human experience. Everything else in life is a repression or mutilation of our sexual desires, and human institutions can be judged by the degree of sexual “freedom” they provide. On this definition of happiness, civilization has greatly hampered the happiness of mankind. For Freud, the essence of civilization “lies in the fact that the members of the community restrict themselves in their possibilities of satisfaction, whereas the individual knew no such restrictions” (Ibid. Page 49).

In Freud's view civilization begins with the restriction of Eros; for the Christian, civilization begins with the flowering of Agape, with the formation of families, tribes and nations working together in brotherly love towards a common good. For Freud, Agape is defined negatively as the restriction of Eros. Giving up one's own gratification to help another takes away from our happiness. This is the complete inversion of Christianity. For the Christian, Agape is the highest virtue. Jesus says that no man has greater love (agape) than to lay down his life for another. When we lay down our life for another, we deliberately and consciously deny ourselves any future enjoyment of physical pleasure. Therefore, Freud would view Christian Agape as the complete opposite of Eros. In this, the Christian would naturally agree, for Agape is man's true source of lasting happiness, while Eros is the cause of man's fall and damnation.

Of course Freud cannot deny that selfless love exists, as the actions of the great martyrs readily show. To explain this phenomenon, Freud claims that religious individuals repress their desire for genital satisfaction and that this repressed Eros is transformed into Agape. This makes Agape a weakened, mutilated form of Eros, and can therefore only provide man with a small fraction of his true possible happiness. In speaking of men living in a Christian society, Freud states that:

A small minority are enabled by their constitution to find happiness, in spite of everything, along the path of love. But far-reaching mental changes in the function of love are necessary before this can happen. These people make themselves independent of their object's acquiesence by displacing what they mainly value from being loved on to loving; they protect themselves against the loss of of the object by directing their love, not to single objects but to all men alike; and they avoid the uncertainties and disappointments of genital love by turning away from its sexual aims and transforming the instinct into an impulse with an inhibited aim. What they bring about in themselves in this way is a state of evenly suspended, steadfast, affectionate feeling, which has little external resemblance any more to the stormy agitations of genital love, from which it is nevertheless derived. (Ibid. Pages 56-57)

For Freud, only a small number of “weak” individuals can be happy with this mutilated form of Eros. For those with healthier, more “normal” sexual appetites, sexual restraint is a form of oppression:

As regards the sexually mature individual, the choice of an object is restricted to the opposite sex, and most extra-genital satisfactions are forbidden as perversions. The requirement, demonstrated in these prohibitions, that there shall be a single kind of sexual life for everyone, disregards the dissimilarities, whether innate or acquired, in the sexual constitution of human beings; it cuts off a fair number of them from sexual enjoyment, and so becomes the source of serious injustice. (Ibid. Page 60)
Only the weaklings have submitted to such an extensive encroachment upon their sexual freedom. (Ibid. Page 61)

Since sexual enjoyment is man's greatest end, then preventing this sexual enjoyment—no matter what form it takes—becomes the greatest violation of human rights. We can see this same argument at play in the “free love” and “gay rights” movements that became dominant in the 1960s. Not only was Freud the principal theorist behind the 60s sexual revolution, but he even went far beyond what most hippy libertines would support. For example, Freud declared that the prohibition against incest was somehow a violation of man's original sexual freedom:

[Civilization's] first, totemic, phase already brings with it the prohibition against an incestuous choice of object, and this is perhaps the most drastic mutilation which man's erotic life has in all time experienced. (Ibid. Page 59)

While this statement on incest might seem shocking, even to most contemporary “progressives”, it is the logical conclusion of the ideology of sexual liberation. Freud is simply being more honest and more consistent. He displays this same brutal honesty when discussing the relationship between religion and the purpose of life. Unlike many liberals today, Freud does not even try to pretend that morality in the traditional sense can exist for “secular” society. Rather, he boldly declares that “One can hardly be wrong in concluding that the idea of life having a purpose stands and falls with the religious system”. 38 Keep in mind that Freud considered all religion to be a mass delusion, and therefore would have us believe that in a mentally “healthy” society, there would be no higher values and no purpose to life other than physical gratification.

Before proceeding further with Freud's theories, I must stress how thoroughly unscientific and irrational Freud is. This is especially important to point out because secularists like Freud claim to hold a strictly scientific worldview and constantly ridicule Christians for holding unscientific beliefs. Freud's theory that all Agape stems from frustrated Eros certainly falls into the realm of pseudo-science. It is not based on any real evidence, and it cannot reasonably account for a number of human experiences. The absolutely selfless Agape that a mother feels for her child is not rooted in frustrated Eros. This maternal love is innate, biological, and hormonal. Many mothers have consciously risked their own lives for that sake of their children without any hope of future physical enjoyment. There have also been many men who gave no thought to sexual purity, and yet still died willingly while defending their family, friends or country. Agape is what drives us to the greatest sacrifice and the greatest bravery. A man motivated by pure lust might put himself at some risk when pursuing his aim, but he will never walk into certain death. The vast majority of mankind, even nonbelievers, would admit that the Agape felt amongst family members is more noble and more praiseworthy than Eros, and that a truly good person is one who takes care of his family before his own personal desires.

Therefore, given that most men and women perceive Agape to be superior to Eros in value, and given that Eros and Agape both have biological, hormonal components, there is no good reason for Freud to assume that Eros is more “natural” or more essential to human happiness than Agape. Freud's choice to do so is not scientific, it is ideological. He desires a society where unlimited sexual gratification is celebrated, and therefore he stubbornly refuses to admit the existence of any genuine human good that is not ultimately subordinate to sexual lust. It is obvious that Freud's teaching contradicts Christianity, but even from a secular, materialistic perspective, his arguments make no sense. Given man's capacity for both base sexual enjoyment and refined intellectual activity, there is no good “scientific” reason simply to assume that greater happiness is derived from the former and not the latter. Those who over-indulge is physical pleasure often regret it. Leaving aside the question of salvation, these over-indulgent individuals often regret their neglect of family and friends, of career advancement, or of physical health. Even worldly satisfaction is not purely physical, for in order to be truly happy, a man's rational faculty must be satisfied as well. In fact, physical pleasure is fleeting and soon passes away, while the knowledge that one has made the right, rational choice can provide satisfaction for years into the future. These considerations would strongly suggest that a truly scientific examination of human wellbeing would conclude, at the very least, that rational self-control is just as important as physical gratification. But it is essential for Freud that he reject such a conclusion. For once it is admitted that physical gratification should be guided by reason, this opens up the way to declaring certain physical pleasures to be undesirable because of their negative consequences. Reason demands that choices be made with a regard to the future. If a particular pleasure, such as sexual intercourse outside of marriage, can potentially lead to the negative consequences of contracting a disease or producing a child with someone who would be an unfit parent, then reason would warn against engaging in such activity. But for Freud, such rational self-control would be an “injustice”, and therefore must be declared an enemy of humanity. In his decision to choose physical pleasure over intellectual self-control as the mark of genuine human wellbeing, Freud is not being at all scientific.

Despite the natural appeal of carnal enjoyment, Freud and his message of sexual liberation have always been met with strong opposition. Fallen man might be easily seduced by Eros, but by God's grace we have been blessed with religion and an innate sense of guilt, both of which have done a great deal to curb our sinfulness. Freud understood the challenge posed by religion and guilt, and therefore sought to undermine them, stating that it is: intention to represent the sense of guilt as the most important problem in the development of civilization and to show that the price we pay for our advance in civilization is a loss of happiness through the heightening of the sense of guilt. (Ibid. Page 97)

Unsurprisingly, Freud traced the origin of religion and guilt to restrictions on physical gratification.

In order to understand Freud's thought on this subject, it is necessary to examine Freud's ridiculous theory about the Oedipus Complex and the origin of civilization. This theory is likely the most brazen example of Freud's pseudo-science. According to Freud, the first form of social organization to arise from the “freedom” of animal existence was a primitive horde where the father ruled over his wives and children as a tyrant. This ancient father was cruel and oppressive. He forced his sons into labor and prevented them from obtaining sexual gratification, as he reserved the women of the horde for himself. The sons living under such a father desired physical gratification, but the fear of their father's punishment kept them in line. Eventually, however, the sons banded together and killed their father. But even after killing their oppressor, the sons were still left with a sense of remorse, which led to the development of guilt:

We cannot get away from the assumption that man's sense of guilt springs from the Oedipus complex and was acquired at the killing of the father by the brothers banded together. (Ibid. Page 93)
This remorse was the result of the primordial ambivalence of feeling towards the father. His sons hated him, but they loved him, too. After their hatred had been satisfied by their act of aggression, their love came to the fore in their remorse for the deed...Whether one has killed one's father or has abstained from doing so is not really the decisive thing. One is bound to feel guilty in either case, for the sense of guilt is an expression of the conflict due to ambivalence. (Ibid. Page 95. Emphasis added)

This is obviously pseudo-science. There is no evidence that the killing of the father by his sons was a common phenomenon. There is no good reason whatsoever to assume that such a thing ever happened. Even from a secular perspective, there are no grounds for assuming that civilization was founded on such oppression and murder as described by Freud. It is much more reasonable to assume, for example, that political organization began when sons joined together with their fathers in opposition to other families. Blood ties provide the most natural and obvious basis for trust and community, and there is no reason to think that the earliest political violence was caused by conflict between fathers and sons. Freud's theory of sons killing their father is not based on evidence, and does not accord with common sense. It is pure pseudo-science. Of course another major problem with Freud's theory is that we all experience a sense of guilt without ever having killed our fathers. Freud explains this away by saying that we all wanted to kill our fathers at some point, and even though we were not able to, we still felt ambivalent about our desires, which led to the development of guilt. When it is objected that none of us remember wanting to do this, Freud assures us that we did wish to kill our fathers, but did so at a very early age, which is why we cannot remember! While the sons living in Freud's imaginary primal horde consciously experienced parental tyranny as more mature children, we are told that all infants experience similar “tyranny” at a very young age when their irrational desires are frustrated by paternal interference. This interference leads to the infantile desire to kill one's father. In saying this, Freud demonizes the loving structure provided by parents and identifies it as the root of guilt, and consequently of unhappiness. Thus, together with genital desire, Freud puts the infantile temper tantrum at the heart of human existence. Obviously it is healthy and natural for fathers to prevent their children from carrying out certain irrational desires that could cause serious harm. But Freud is so far divorced from reality, that even these basic impediments to irrational, infantile desires must be treated with suspicion.

Freud's fixation with infantile experience pervades much of his thought and frequently reaches absurd levels. For example, he even claims that “the dwelling-house was a substitute for the mother's womb, the first lodging, for which in all likelihood man still longs, and in which he was safe and felt at ease” (Ibid. Page 43). Aside from being unverifiable, this statement ignores the obvious fact that houses are very convenient for avoiding exposure to the elements and for repelling enemies. There might be an analogy between the womb and a house, but there is no reason to think that man, even on a subconscious level, was trying to recreate the womb when first building permanent dwellings. In every instance, Freud places the infantile above the mature, implying that mature human thoughts and emotions are merely corrupted, malformed versions of the infantile originals. Such an absurd ordering of things is like saying that walking is a deformed version of crawling. Infants are immature and not fully formed, both anatomically and emotionally. Infancy is a stage that we progress beyond as we mature, and it is not the standard by which human happiness ought to be measured.

In explaining the development of religion, Freud once again cites infantile frustration as the key factor:

The derivation of religious needs from the infant's helplessness and the longing for the father aroused by it seems to me incontrovertible. (Ibid. Page 20)
The common man cannot imagine this Providence otherwise than in the figure of an enormously exalted father. Only such a being can understand the needs of the children of men and be softened by their prayers and placated by the signs of their remorse. The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. (Ibid. Page 22)

Given that Freud is an atheist, it is not surprising that he assumes religion to be man made. But he goes further than this, declaring that religion is not to be traced to human speculation, but to irrational infantile desires. Many atheists have suggested that religion arose from man thinking about the origin of the universe and the causes of natural phenomena, but even this explanation is too noble for Freud. He instead focuses on the conflicted emotional life of the infant: hating and fearing the father because of his discipline, but at the same time desiring the father's aid and protection. Freud shows incredible insolence in dismissing religion as “infantile”, while he is the one who elevates base, irrational, and infantile desires. Christianity, along with common sense, teaches that this life is inevitably full of both pleasure and pain. Reason, toil and sacrifice are necessary in order to live virtuously. Christianity also teaches that the transcendent, ineffable creator of the universe has established what is right and what is wrong, and that just punishment will come to those who do evil. Freud, on the other hand, teaches that true happiness can only come with the “liberation” of our base, animal desires, and that “primitive man was better off in knowing no restrictions of instinct” (Ibid. Page 73). He places the chaos of animal savagery above the moral and intellectual advancements of civilization, because only in the state of nature can man pursue absolute fulfillment of selfish lust. I ask you, which worldview, Christianity or Freudianism, is “foreign to reality”? Which one is “patently infantile”?

While everything that Freud says might seem very silly, his poisonous teachings should be taken very seriously. Reason, self-control, the family, religion, civilization—Freud labels all of these things as enemies. Freud's theories have not been restricted to the world of eccentric academics; his theories have infiltrated every level of society and have come to shape public morality. In the mainstream media, Christianity and chastity are mocked, while undoing the “injustice” of homophobia is praised as a great moral advancement. This triumph of degeneracy has been effected by a group of Jewish intellectuals known as the Frankfurt School, which used Freud's theories as a revolutionary weapon. Freud taught that mental illnesses are caused by erotic frustration and the attendant sense of guilt, especially guilt caused by failure to live up to the high moral standards demanded by Christianity. Freud's Jewish disciples in the Frankfurt School attempted to “cure” society of the diseases of morality and religion.

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