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Moses and Monotheism [Paperback]

Sigmund Freud
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 12 1955
Freud's speculations on various aspects of religion where he explains various characteristics of the Jews in their relations with the Christians.

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"To deny a people the man whom it praises as the greatest of its sons is not a deed to be undertaken lightheartedly--especially by one belonging to that people," writes Sigmund Freud, as he prepares to pull the carpet out from under The Great Lawgiver in Moses and Monotheism. In this, his last book, Freud argues that Moses was an Egyptian nobleman and that the Jewish religion was in fact an Egyptian import to Palestine. Freud also writes that Moses was murdered in the wilderness, in a reenactment of the primal crime against the father. Lingering guilt for this crime, Freud says, is the reason Christians understand Jesus' death as sacrificial. "The 'redeemer' could be none other than the one chief culprit, the leader of the brother-band who had overpowered the father." Hence the basic difference between Judaism and Christianity: "Judaism had been a religion of the father, Christianity became a religion of the son." Freud's arguments are extremely imaginative, and his distinction between reality and fantasy, as always, is very loose. If only as a study of wrong-headedness, however, it's fascinating reading for those who want to explore the psychological impulses governing the historical relationship between Christians and Jews. --Michael Joseph Gross

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Admit it! You hate your Dad! Jan. 11 2002
This is my favorite nut book of all time, principally because it was written by THE most original thinker of the 20th century.
A conspiracy book by a mediocre paranoid is par for the course; but one written by a genius of the first order is bound to be outstanding.
To fully understand M&M one has to be somewhat conversant with Totem and Taboo, and Freud reiterates those basic premises here as well. Briefly they are as follows:
The origin of society begins with a tribe in which the dominant male gets all the women, including his sisters and Mommy.
His sons are understandably upset at being left out of the fun and complain, so Dad kills or castrates them. Or makes the mistake of being lenient and simply drives them off.
The sons, unable to find females of their own, band together go back and murder dad. Then, of course, they eat his body.
There being too many sons (and feeling repressed guilt at killing their old man) they make taboos against incest thus establishing the rule of law.
(Bet you didn't know this was the origin of Magna Carta, et al).
This keeps the gene pool safe from inbreeding but leads to all sorts of guilt feelings which get acted out politically-- not the least of which is a worshipping of Mommy, which leads to LHM -a Literal Historical Matriarchy.
(And to think feminists dislike Freud)
Next, they get fed up with being bossed about by Mom (and who wouldn't?) so they re-establish the patriarchy; only this time they stick to the rule of law, because they can't afford further fraticidal bloodshed and they invent polytheism to boot.
But deeply repressed father hatred looms within, which leads to the final step: monotheism, in which God is an avenging Father who must be appeased before he starts castrating again. . .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Identity search amid the Holocaust June 14 2009
Freud's last book is a multi-layered attempt to reconcile his trademark theories on religion and psychosocial development with his own identity as a Jew. It was written partly in Austria, as the Nazi movement picked up speed, and finished in London where the author found refuge.

The essays join together the main ideas from "Totem and Taboo" and "The Future of an Illusion" in a study of the Jewish (and Catholic) founding texts. He believed the biblical Moses to be an Egyptian, who imposed his failed religion on a wandering tribe nearby. The Oedipus effect ensued, leading to collective repression. Thus, widespread belief in one god is a symptom of our repressed guilt for having murdered Moses thousands of years ago. Through it all, you can hear the author's voice, desperately attempting to grasp what it really means to be one of the chosen people of Moses during the Holocaust.

If you liked this I would highly recommend:
Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World - René Girard
Erotism - Georges Bataille
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, but not for its accuracy. Dec 24 2003
By LEs
My title sums up my feelings about this book. I've read a bit of Freud, but this book, so far, is the most interesting, engaging, and engrossing of the lot. Perhaps this is because Freud occasionally acknowledges the tenuous nature of his argument. What is that argument? I wish not to give away the entire book, but its crux is that Freud begins with the proposition that Moses was an Egyption, a follower of Aton religion, and when that religion vanished after the reign of one king, he passed it on to the Jews. It must first be said that Freud is not the only one to claim that Hebraism/Judaism developed monotheism out of the Egyptian milieu. The most interesting thing is that Freud claims to find this, psychoanalyticaly, in the very myth of Moses' birth, which he argues in an archetypal heroic one. Be that as it may, I cannot give this book 5 stars because the last chapter, though he introduces, quite lucidly, the ideas of the Ego, Superego, and the Id, I came away feeling that the argument could have been made in half the space. Nevertheless, a hearty recommendation.
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This is the last book written by Freud. Moses and Monotheism was published in totum in 1939, the year Freud died in London, where he got residence along with his family to scape the Nazi persecution against Jews in Austria, where he thought he was safe.
The hypotheses raised in the book are polemical, and this seems to be a kind of a Freudian trademark, and they are nothing less than:
1- Moses was in fact Egyptian and worked as a general in the staff of the Egyptian pharaoh Ikhenaton, who urged the untill then polytheists Egyptians to adore Aton as only God and to adopt monotheism. When the pharaoh died, Moses tried to convince the Jews working at the northeast region of Egypt that they were the chosen people and to follow him. Many of the theories present in this book are in fact development of a hypothesis already raised by Freud in his earlier book "Totem and Taboo" and represents a serious attempt at demolishing the foundations of both the Mosaic religion as Christianity. The idea is that a band of brothers opressed by the father in fact killed him, and out of a guilty feeling payed tribute to him in a series of disguised primitive rituals to honor him in group.
2 - The circuncisiom was already practise at Egypt and was not something invented by Jeovah as a sign of the alliance (covenant)between Him and the Jewish people. Also, in Freud's hypothesis, Jeovah was a demi-god of the Volcanoes and many of his later carachteristics were later adoptions of Egyptian religious tendencies by means of the Levites, who, again in Freud's view, were not the son of Levi (one of the ten tribes of Israel) but rather were also of Egyptian origin and followers of Moses, who in fact was killed by the Egyptian jews, etc...
If you think this is all the book portrays, you are pretty much wrong.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars natural religion and an amateur
here we have the last volume of Freud's collected works #23(24 is index)and here we are in religion by a person not a theologian. Or a religious expert. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Anthony Marinelli
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating work
The premise of this book is that the biblical character Moses, rather than being born into an ancient Hebrew family was in fact Egyptian. Read more
Published on April 16 2006 by Dwayne Nietzche
5.0 out of 5 stars I never knew...
I did not know all of this about Freud, and I just remember being in the bookstore, loving the cover, realizing he was who wrote it and I had to get it, and I loved it. Loved it. Read more
Published on Feb. 28 2004 by Kristin Bennett
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful
An excellent work of Freud. This thesis is not misses for nobody. The scholars know that the judaism is an endless mixture of foreign concepts, that it has been benefitted of... Read more
Published on July 21 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars a very thought provoking work
I found this book very enlightening, not because the premise is necessarily factual, but because through Freud's alternative ideas on the Moses legend we gain additional insight... Read more
Published on April 5 2002 by Brad Saltzberg
5.0 out of 5 stars Moses Legend Revealed
An outstanding and audacious book.
Not to many people have knowledge of this subject on Freud's writings. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2001 by Mario Porto
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding an image of God
I feel this short book is well worth reading. Freud, at the time, was debating whether to leave Nazi-occupied Austria and was deeply afraid that the public would misinterpret him. Read more
Published on Oct. 9 2001 by "sheshet"
2.0 out of 5 stars Freuds lamest book
Freud speculated two Moses: an Egyptian nobleman who lived near the time of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton, the founder of the world's first monotheism, who gave the Hebrews a... Read more
Published on July 22 2001 by Craig Chalquist, PhD, author of TERRAPSYCHOLOGY and DEEP CALIFORNIA
4.0 out of 5 stars fascinating but very speculative
This is a fairly obscure and especially speculative work of Freud's, published originally in the year he died. The argument is fascinating. Read more
Published on Dec 22 1999
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