Posted by: cochinblogger | August 17, 2010

Colin Wilson on Freud’s Oedipus Complex Theory

In C. G. Jung: Lord of the Underworld, Colin Wilson asks

“Why was Freud so obsessed with his sexual theory? The question is as difficult to answer now as it was then, in the days when most doctors regarded it as a form of mild insanity. After Freud’s rise to world fame — some twenty years after his meeting with Jung — there was a general agreement that the answer to that question was: Because it is true. But in the years since Freud’s death, there has been a slow swing back towards the original view: that Freud simply went too far in his emphasis on the ‘sexual theory.’ And the question of why Freud regarded it as a kind of religion remains as puzzling and insistent as ever.”

Jung started out as Freud’s disciple but eventually broke with him because he never could swallow Freud’s sexual theories. Freud made it clear that he would not tolerate criticism of his sexual theories.

A typical Freudian theory is his theory of the Oedipus complex:

“He developed the theory of the Oedipus complex: that the son has a desire to sleep with his mother, and therefore to kill his father — his chief rival, who in turn would secretly wish to kill the son, or at least castrate him. It was at this point that Josef Breur, Freud’s closest colleague, felt that it was time to protest: surely this was going a little too far? Angrily, Freud broke with Breur.”

This sets the stage for some mind-bending, provocative speculation from Wilson, who suggests that Freud had sexual fantasies about his mother. Shocking, but isn’t it poetic justice that Freud is hoist with his own sexual petard? One who lives by the sword should be prepared to die by the sword. Included in the following excerpt is an anecdote involving William Reich that is … well, carry on reading.

“The Oedipus complex theory undoubtedly had some personal basis. When Freud was born, in 1856, his mother was a pretty, vivacious girl of twenty-one; his father was forty-one. A picture of Freud, aged sixteen, with his mother shows her as attractive and desirable. His father was by then fifty-seven. It seems perfectly conceivable that Freud desired his mother sexually and indulged in erotic fantasies about her. If this seems unlikely for a well-brought-up Jewish boy in the Victorian era, it is worth recalling that one of his chief disciples, Wilhelm Reich, entertained similar feelings about his own mother. When Reich was thirteen, he realized that his mother was having a sexual affair with his tutor. A recent biography of Reich (by Myron Sharaf) reveals that Reich’s first reaction was to wonder if he could use his knowledge to blackmail his mother into having sex with him. (In fact, he informed his father, and his mother committed suicide.)”

Strong stuff, what? Colin Wilson has out-Freuded Freud. 🙂

But wait, there’s more. What is the real difference between Jung and Freud? Here is Colin Wilson’s astonishing explanation:

“Jung prefers to gloss over the obvious truth that the real difference between himself and Freud is that his own mother was fat and ugly, so there was no temptation to dream of seducing her, and that his father was pathetic and unsuccessful, so there was no temptation to fantasize about killing him.”

Freud’s great achievement was his discovery of the unconscious mind; his sexual theories, however, have been dumped in history’s dustbin.

And what is history’s verdict on Colin Wilson’s speculations regarding the genesis of Freud’s Oedipus complex theory? Your guess is as good as mine. But you know what? I’d like to get my hands on Colin Wilson’s biographical details.

In particular, I want to know how old his mother was when he was born. 🙂

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