Is Psychoanalysis a Jewish Science?

Panel discussion: Joseph Berke, Stephen Frosh, Tali Loewenthal and Anthony Stadlen

Predominantly, Sigmund Freud saw himself as an objective scientist. Initially, he gained renown as an anatomist, being the first person to dissect the testicles of an eel. Subsequently he made major contributions to histology and neurology, particularly through his study of Aphasia. Yet he became famous for his study of subjectivity and intersubjectivity.

At the same time, he decried religion, including his own, as mired in magic and superstition. And he repeatedly denied that his work was a ‘Jewish science,’ even though he and almost all the founding fathers of psychoanalysis were Jewish, and his basic discoveries were rooted in the Jewish mystical tradition. That was the overt Freud.

The covert Freud confessed that he was “not at all a man of science,” rather an emotional “conquistador and adventurer.” Moreover he maintained mystical texts in his library and, at times, studied with a distinguished Kabbalist, Rabbi Alexandre Safran.

In 1977 on the creation Sigmund Freud Chair of Psychoanalysis at the Hebrew University, his daughter, Anna, addressed the issue of her father’s work being a “Jewish science.” She said that however much psychoanalysis may be dismissed for being unscientific or overly Jewish, she now believed that the term could now serve as a “title of honor.”

The discussants will consider whether this is still, or ever was, the case.

Joseph Berke

Psychoanalytic Psychotherapist, Individuals and Families
Co Founder, Arbours Association
Founder and Director, Arbours Crisis Centre
Lecturer and Writer
Books include, Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey Through Madness ( with M. Barnes) Why I Hate You and You Hate Me and most recently The Hidden Freud: His Hassidic Roots

Stephen Frosh

Pro-Vice-Master and Professor in the Department of Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is the author of many books and papers on psychosocial studies and on psychoanalysis, including Feelings, Psychoanalysis Outside the Clinic, A Brief Introduction to Psychoanalytic Theory, and The Politics of Psychoanalysis. He has written two books on psychoanalysis and Jewish identities: Hate and the Jewish Science: Anti-Semitism, Nazism and Psychoanalysis, and Hauntings: Psychoanalysis and Ghostly Transmissions.

Tali Loewenthal

Dr Naftali Loewenthal was born in Haifa but was brought up in London. He is an adjunct lecturer at the Dept of Hebrew and Jewish Studies of UCL, lecturing in Jewish Spirituality. He authored Communicating the Infinite: the Emergence of the Habad School (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990) and many scholarly articles. His forthcoming book with the Littman Library is entitled “Hippy in the Mikveh, Essays on Habad Thought and History”.

He also directs the Chabad Research Unit, an educational organisation running study groups and producing ‘Friday Night’ for discussion at the Shabbat table, and teaches Religious Studies in the Lubavitch Senior Girls School. He is married to Professor Kate-Miriam Loewenthal. They have a large family.

Anthony Stadlen

Anthony Stadlen is an existential and psychoanalytic psychotherapist (UKCP, BPC), Daseinsanalyst (IFDA Independent Effective Member for UK), family analyst and teacher. Research Fellow of Freud Museum 1988-90. Since 1979 has conducted historical research on the paradigm case studies of Freud, Binswanger, Boss, Laing, Esterson, and other therapists. Author of many papers including ‘Was Dora wel ziek?’ in Vrij Nederland (1985); ‘Freud’s Judaism: Renewal and Betrayal’ in Is Psychoanalysis Another Religion (1993, published by Freud Museum); ‘The Madhouse of Being’ in Daseinsanalyse (2007). Convenor since 1996 of Inner Circle Seminars, London, an existential, phenomenological search for truth in the foundations of psychotherapy. Lay leyener (Torah scroll reciter) and chazan (cantor) at Belsize Square Synagogue.


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