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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 Vintage
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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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
Format:Paperback
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
By MC
Format:Paperback
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 natural religion and Freud..by an amateur April 14 2013
Format:Paperback
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. He does not write from any innate idea of religion in human beings but from what people call natural religion. That is like most of his work..on p 283 he talks about the "reciprocal relations between body and mind"(p 283) and "philosophers" and it brings up ideas of dualism and Descartes pineal gland..on paper he rejects this in his philosophy or science and that everything like the medieval scholars is experienced or learned from the natural world(Aristotle really). Descartes had the view and you wil even see articles in Psychology today and even among theologians it stirs up some controversey but Descartes in his philosophy theorised and based his science on innate ideas..MOses. Like herman Wouk in his novel MOses the Lawgiver it seems to be an issue among those closely tied to the jewish community to reflect on this figure at the end of one's career. That just goes to show he sees himself as a jewish person, and certainly a writer who bases many of his ideas on human suffering which though buddhist..is certainly jewish also, the suffering servant. He spends much time on the Egyptian kings and the book of EXodus. liberation, which was the key to the jews identity and freedom from bondage although he omits the year of jubilee..and doesnt really talk of the laws and perhaps this would incur much discussion from jews and he soes not want to go there..on p 30 he talks of cows and pigs(and here we have an idea of totem).."grounds of cleanliness"..and how some omit these objects. Yet he fails to mention the jesus exorcism and the demons fleeing to a group of pigs and being drowned(gadarene swine)..a horrible story. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating work April 16 2006
Format:Paperback
The premise of this book is that the biblical character Moses, rather than being born into an ancient Hebrew family was in fact Egyptian. It further postulates that the concept of the Monotheism was originated by an Egyptian Pharoah named Ikhnaton and was subsequently adopted by the ancient Israelites. Rather than playing the role as described in the book of Exodus, the Egyptian Moses brought Monotheism to the Hebrews after the Egyptians rejected it in favour of their traditional polytheistic beliefs. Freud supports his theory with a number of interesting ideas including the fact that the etymology of the word Moses is Egyptian, all the while acknowledging that there is indeed room for doubt in his hypothesis. I find this work fascinating and at times convincing.
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Most recent customer reviews
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, but not for its accuracy.
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. Read more
Published on Dec 25 2003 by LEs
5.0 out of 5 stars Religion as the manifestation of the collective unconscious
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... Read more
Published on April 22 2003 by Roberto P. De Ferraz
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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