Freud and Chasidim: Redeeming the Jewish Soul of Psychoanalysis by Dr. Sanford Drob
Volume 3 , Issue 1 (Sept, 1989 | Tishrei, 5750)
The identification of psychotherapy, particularly of psychoanalysis, with Jews and Judaism, is certainly nothing new. In fact, in the early days of psychoanalysis, its detractors, most notably the Nazis, referred to it as the ?Jewish science.? Freud himself, while resisting attempts to cast his discoveries in such an ethnic light, surrounded himself almost exclusively with Jewish colleagues and conceived of his Jewishness as a great motivating factor in his life and work.
Nevertheless, in spite of the identification of psychoanalysis and Jewishness in the popular mind, it is not an identification which has ever had any currency among practicing, religious Jews, themselves. The reasons for this are simple and fairly obvious. First, the vast majority of those Jews who practice or undergo psychoanalysis are secular Jews with little or no attachment to Judaism per se. Theirs is, at most, a ?bagels and lox? Judaism without spiritual or religious content, and, at worst, a ?Phillip Roth? Judaism, presumably leading to the very neurosis which psychoanalysis purports to cure. Second, psychoanalysts have themselves been quite disparaging of Judaism in many instances, arguing, for example, that the strictness of the ?Mosaic law? is prone to produces guilt and psychopathology. Freud, himself, was openly critical of organized religion (and Judaism in particular}, claimed to be an atheist, and made no secret of his hope that psychoanalysis would someday produce a ?secular priesthood? that would lead mankind into a state of psychological health free from religious beliefs and demands.
On the surface, then, there seems to be no relationship between psychoanalysis as a science and therapy, and Judaism as a religion. Psychoanalysis, it would appear, has no place for prayer or mitzvot, no relationship to God, and no essential reason to maintain its connection with the Jewish community. Judaism, for its part, seems to have no place for psychoanalysis, and, indeed, those Orthodox Jews who have attempted a rapprochement between Judaism and psychology have generally focused their efforts on non‑psychoanalytic theories and therapies, for example, those stemming from the cognitive and behavioral sciences.
Is it possible, however, if we dig somewhat beneath the surface, if we take the approach of the psychoanalysts themselves, to find a true relationship between psychoanalysis and Judaism after all? Might we not find that psychoanalysis, like an errant yeshiva bocher who has abandoned the mitzvot, still retains its Jewish soul in spite of all appearances? Is there, indeed, something fundamentally Jewish about psychoanalysis which attracts so many Jews to its ranks, and that has a basic appeal to the Jewish neshamah or soul? More importantly, if there is a spark of Judaism at the heart of the psychoanalytic endeavor, is it possible to ?redeem? this spark and make analysis compatible with, even an integral part of, the life of the observant Jew?
These are certainly complex questions. However, they are questions which I believe can be answered in the affirmative through a consideration of three things. The first is Freud's own Jewish background; the second is the remarkable parallels that exist between basic psychoanalytic and Jewish mystical, particularly, Chasidic ideas; and the third is the fundamental contrast between psychoanalysis and Judaism in their respective views of the place of values within, and the fundamental Godliness of, the individual's psyche or soul.
Freud's Jewish Background
Freud was consistently exposed to Jewish culture and ideas when he was
growing up. Freud's parents each came from towns in
While it is clear that by the time of Freud's birth his parents' observance of Jewish law and ritual had diminished, it is also clear that the Freud home was one which was very rich in Jewish culture and religion. Freud's father would frequently illustrate an idea or moral by quoting a Jewish anecdote (a custom which Freud himself maintained throughout his life), and the Jewish scriptures were the main instrument of Freud's education until he attended school at the age of nine. While Freud may never have learned much Hebrew, his father was knowledgeable in both Hebrew and Yiddish, and his mother, Amalie, who lived to the ripe old age of 95, spoke Galician Yiddish as her almost exclusive language, suggesting that this must have been Freud's own language until he began school. When Freud was 35, his father presented him with a Hebrew Bible which contained an inscription (in Hebrew) which can be interpreted to contain Jewish mystical allusions. In it he states that he had kept the book hidden until Freud's 35th year, a fact which David Bakan, author of Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition, has suggested may be an allusion to the tradition of revealing the hidden aspects of Torah (i.e., kabbalah) only to those who have reached the age of 35 or 40.1
Freud does not discuss kabbalah or Chasidism in any of his published writings, but he is reported to have conversed with keen interest on these topics with the famous Lithuanian rabbi, Hayyim Block. Interestingly, Freud writes in a letter to his friend Fleiss in 1897 (during the period when he was composing The Interpretation of Dreams) of making a collection of wise Jewish anecdotes. This collection has not survived and we can only speculate as to what light it might have shed on the relationship between Freud's Judaism and his psychoanalytic discoveries.
While none of Freud's biographers speak of a Jewish religious influence upon his work, they are virtually unanimous in acknowledging that Freud's Jewishness was the single most important part of his personal background. In addressing the B'nai Brith (to which he had lifetime membership), Freud, in 1926, stated that he remained attracted to Judaism because of ?many dark emotional powers that are all the mightier the less they let themselves be grasped in words?.2 Perhaps we may discover that these unexpressed emotional powers lent a particularly Jewish, Chasidic cast to psychoanalysis. It is worth noting in this regard that Carl Jung, one of Freud's earliest disciples, suggested in 1957 that a true understanding of Freud's contributions ?would carry us <193> into the subterranean workings of Chasidism ? and then into the intricacies of the kabbalah.?3
Some Remarkable Parallels
When we turn to examine psychoanalysis itself, we discover that it shares a whole host of theoretical, technical and even ?sociological? features with Judaism, particularly with kabbalah and Chasidism. These similarities are all the more striking because, while psychoanalysis shares them with Judaism, it does not share them with the mostly biologically oriented psychiatry that was practiced in Freud's own day.
The first of these features is that psychoanalysis, like Judaism, is a hermeneutic or interpretive discipline. To be sure, Freud was decidedly unscientific by the standards of his time, for unlike Darwin who had brought the methods of causal science to an area of inquiry (the origin and evolution of the species) which had hitherto been understood interpretively as the creation of God, Freud brought the methods of Biblical and talmudic interpretation to an area of inquiry (neurotic symptoms and dreams) which in his own day had been understood biologically. As such, Freud was accused by critics of propagating ?an evil method proceeding from mystical tendencies and full of dangers to the medical profession.?4 Indeed, the charge of mysticism is not very far off the mark; one of the very hallmarks of the kabbalah is its acute interest in the secret and hidden nature of man, an interest which is at the very heart of the psychoanalytic enterprise and which is manifest in the analyst's conviction that the meaning or significance of an individual's dream or symptom is hidden from both the patient and doctor and must be uncovered by interpretive means.
It is an obvious, but, nonetheless, striking fact that psychoanalysis and Chasidism each operate through the medium of a verbal confession and dialogue with an authoritative, yet sympathetic listener. As has often been observed, the private therapeutic encounter between rebbe and chasid shares many of the features of psychoanalytic treatment. The similarities, as outlined by Jewish counsellors such as Hoffman and Schachter, are too numerous to mention and almost too great to be a mere coincidence. As Adin Steinsaltz has put it, the rebbe‑chasid encounter is not a confession of sins but a ?very practical outpouring of the soul, a self‑analysis of various problems of the soul in the presence of a rabbi, who guides and directs the self‑analysis.?5
Several other parallels bear mention, if only in passing. While Judaism is studied in yeshivot, psychoanalysis is studied in ?institutes.? While yeshivah students pour over the Talmud, institute students pour over the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (often with equal reverence). While the oral (mystical) teachings of Judaism are learned from one's ?rebbe,? the oral teachings of psychoanalysis are learned from one's ?training analyst? (who like a rebbe also often sports a dark suit and a beard). While the Chasidic movement split into a number of courts, each with its own rebbe (the Lubavitcher, the Bratslaver, etc.) and each claiming to be the true heir to the tradition of the Besht, (the Baal Shem Tov) the founder of Chasidism, the psychoanalytic movement also split into a number of schools each with its own revered leader (Adler, Jung, Horney, Klein, etc.) and each claiming to be the true heir to the tradition of Freud.
The parallels are almost endless, but thus far, admittedly, relatively superficial. However, one school of Jewish mystical thought, Chabad or Lubavitch Chasidism, evolved a psychology of the soul which bears striking similarities to the very details of psychoanalytic theory. The Chabad psychology was itself based upon Lurianic Kabbalah, a system of Jewish mystical thought which anticipated many important psychoanalytic ideas. The theosophy of Lurianic Kabbalah constitutes the basic metaphor for much of Chasidic thought, and a proper understanding of this metaphor is essential to any further comparison between psychoanalysis and Chasidism.
According to Rabbi Isaac Luria and his disciples, the world as we know it is the result of a cosmic exile in which a portion of God's energy or light has been alienated from its source. The universe as it was originally created consisted of a series of ten structures (the sefirot} which were meant to serve as vessels (kelim) for God's light. However, these vessels, which were themselves manifestations of God's intellectual and emotional characteristics, (midot) were disunified, and hence, were incapable of containing all the light which had been emanated into them. As a result, there occurred the enormous catastrophe known in the kabbalah as ?the breaking of the vessels? (shevirat hakelim). A majority of the sefirot shattered, causing fragments of divine light, now clinging to the shards of the broken vessels, to be scattered about the universe; exiled from God into a realm known as the sitra achra, quite literally ?the other side.? These shards or shells (kellipot), encasing within themselves the sparks of alienated divine light (netzotzim) give rise both to the world's corporeal nature and its evil and negativity. It is, according to the Kabbalists, mankind's divinely appointed task to liberate the Godly energy from within these kellipot, particularly the kellipot within one's own soul, and to raise these sparks of Godly light to their source so that they may again serve the divine will. This ?raising of the sparks? is brought about through proper ethical and spiritual conduct, and, with respect to the sparks within the individual himself, through a psychological process known as ?discovering the roots of one's soul.? The combined results of these positive acts bring about tikkun haolam, the restoration of the world.
The Lurianic metaphors provided the kabbalists, and later, the Chasidim, with a theoretical structure upon which to establish what might be called an ethical/spiritual psychology. Looked at from a contemporary perspective, the basic metaphor of Lurianic Kabbalah is very psychoanalytic in nature, and if not for the fact that Isaac Luria preceded Freud by some 300 years, one might be tempted to call the Lurianic scheme a ?psychoanalysis of God.?
Freud, too, posits a scheme in which procreative energy (the libido) is modified into cognitive/emotional structures (the ego and the superego) whose function it is to channel and modulate further emanations of the individual's ?id,? much as the sefirot were designed as vessels for channeling the light and energy of God's will. For reasons inherent in the nature of the conflict between instinct and culture, these structures lack unity or harmony and are not fully able to contain or modulate the libidinous energy in ways that are consistent with the individual's purposes and will. The result is, one might say, a partial ?shattering? of the ego and a splitting off (exile) of impulses, emotions and ideas from the main fabric of the individual's personality, just as in the Kabbalah, divine sparks are separated from their source in God. The impulse or idea and its associated emotion is repressed and subsequently exists in a nether psychological realm known as the ?unconscious? which is quite analogous to Luria's sitra achra or ?other side.? Once unconscious, these ?complexes? of thought and affect, which are akin to the kabbalistic kellipot, are inaccessible to the individual. They become, in a sense, ?exiled,? and are the source of all manner and variety of psychological distress which the individual experiences as dreams, anxiety, depression and neurotic symptoms, much as the kellipot are the source of negativity and evil on the cosmic level. The job of the analyst is to make these unconscious complexes conscious, and more importantly, to free the libidinous energy attached to them so that it can be made available to the individual for his own life goals, just as, in kabbalah, the energy trapped in the kellipot must be freed and made available for the service of God. Thus, from a kabbalistic perspective, the psychoanalytic endeavor is itself a form of tikkun (restoration) which brings an end to a galut (?exiled? aspects of the individual's personality) and ushers in a geulah or psychological redemption.
There is a further analogy between Lurianic Kabbalah and psychoanalysis, one that goes to the very heart of the psychotherapeutic enterprise and which is reflected in their respective views of the origin of the ?repressed? and the ?other side.? According to Freud, the repressed or ?dynamic unconscious? is a function of harsh prohibitions or stern judgments to the effect that a particular emotion or idea is unacceptable to the ego or self. Quite remarkably, the kabbalists of Sefad held a nearly identical theory of the origin of the ?other side? which, as we have seen, is a theosophical parallel to the Freudian repressed. The kabbalists held that the ?other side? originates in the unrestrained growth and dominion of the power of gevurah or din, severe judgment, and as a result of the severing of this power from its natural union with chesed or loving kindness. As in Freud, it is severe and unrestrained moral judgment which gives rise to negativity and conflict, and for both the kabbalists and psychoanalysts, it is only through an amelioration of such judgment through the powers of acceptance and loving kindness that evil can be subdued and intrapsychic conflict resolved.
The Chasidim based their psychology on the foundations of Isaac Luria's metaphors. Indeed, the Chabad Chasidim developed theories of man's basic drives, his inner conflicts and their resolution, the balance of reason and emotion, the sublimation of instincts, and the nature of human character which are very ?psychoanalytic? in nature.
The Chasidic theory of human instincts originates in the rabbinic distinction between the yetzer hatov (the good inclination) and the yetzer hara (the evil inclination); the latter was held to be the equivalent of man's natural, particularly his sexual, instincts and desires. However, like the Freudian libido, man's ?evil inclination? can be both the source of evil or good, for according to the rabbis ?were it not for the evil impulse no man would build a house, marry a wife or beget children? (Genesis Rabbah 9:7).
Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the author of Tanya6 and the founder of Chabad Chasidism, extended the rabbinic distinction into a relatively complex view which contrasted man's ?animal? and ?Godly? souls. The animal soul originates in two general ?powers,? ratzon or ?will? (which is analogous to the Freudian libido) and oneg or ?delight? (which is comparable to Freud's ?pleasure principle?). According to Schneur Zalman, it is man's lot to suffer the conflict between his ?Godly? and ?animal? souls. Each soul, he tells us, has a will and mind of its own, and the individual's body is a neutral zone upon which the two souls compete, like armies attempting to conquer a ?small city.? As a result of this battle between ?ought? and ?desire,? the average person constantly experiences a tension or conflict, which is only relieved during moments of inner harmony, such as during intense study or prayer. At other times the inner conflict can lead to disturbing thoughts or a lowering of the spirit, the alleviation of which is to be found only through an appeal to the individual's intellect and reason. Indeed ?Chabad,? the school of Chasidism founded by Schneur Zalman, is so named after the first letters of the intellectual sefirot (Chochmah, Binah and Daat: wisdom, understanding and knowledge) which, according to the author of Tanya, must come to modulate, and ultimately control, the emotions if the individual is to achieve any degree of personal harmony, productiveness, and peace. The Chabad psychology is thus, with some important differences to be noted later, an important precursor of Freud's famous description of psychoanalytic cure, ?where id was, there ego shall be,? where impulses and emotions conflicted, there reason and intellect shall reign.
The Chabad Chasidim also developed a concept of sublimation which was an important precursor of psychoanalytic theory. In contrast to those elements within Judaism which advocated control or suppression of one's natural instincts, the Chasidim focused upon sameach or joy and emphasized that man must redirect his natural inclinations in the service of moral, cultural and spiritual ends. Indeed, it is the need for help in elevating one's instincts (and this is the psychological meaning of the kabbalist's ?raising of the sparks?) which prompts the Chasid to make an oral confession to his rebbe.
The Confrontation with Evil
It is via the notion of sublimation or the elevation of instincts that we can best understand another shared interest of psychoanalysis and Jewish mysticism: the confrontation with evil. The concern with evil and the forbidden is evident in the classic work of the kabbalah, The Zohar, where it is written that ?there is no worship of God except when it issues forth from darkness, and no good except when it proceeds from evil.? (Zohar II:184a). Indeed, the ?raising of the sparks,? the process of extracting divine light from the ?other side? and returning it to its source in God, can, by definition, only occur through a confrontation of evil in its own realm. Man must, according to the Chasidim, confront and understand his own evil aspect if he is to ever have hope of achieving victory over his ?animal soul.? The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, is purported to have said ?a man should desire a woman to so great an extent that he refines away his material existence in virtue of the strength of his desire,? a statement which reflects the Chasidic doctrine of yoredah le‑zorekh alliyah, ?the descent on behalf of the ascent.? Freud, himself, took up such a theme in his view that the doctor and patient must themselves enter the forbidden worlds of sexual desire and aggression if the patient is to ultimately be freed from these forces. Freud's own entry into the dark world of primitive sexuality and aggression seems unique in the context of the Victorian era in which he lived and worked. One cannot but wonder whether his exposure to Chasidic or kabbalistic notions as a young Viennese Jew were the factors which prompted him on this journey.
There are a number of other parallels that can be drawn between Chasidism and psychoanalysis. For example, the kabbalists held a view of man's psychosexual development, and particularly his original bisexuality, which is remarkably prescient of fundamental psychoanalytic ideas. In addition, Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav was remarkably Freudian in his belief that sex is the ?all embracing urge.? Finally, in Schneur Zalman's Tanya we find a ?personology? (which is very similar to the later Freudian scheme), in which the ?intermediate man? (benoni), who is filled with internal conflict, is contrasted with the wicked (rasha), who is without guilt or conscience, and the righteous (tzaddik), who is fully sublimated and has complete knowledge of the workings of his own psyche. The Tanya, in focusing the majority of its interest on the benoni is premonitory of Freud whose interest in the neurotic (in contrast with the psychopathic and the hypothetically ?fully analyzed? individual) is well known. Both Schneur Zalman and Freud were concerned with the man who is in conflict, whose conscience holds tenuous sway over his impulses. It is in their respective understandings of how such an individual's conflict is to be resolved that their greatest similarities and divergences are revealed.
Jewish Mystical Themes in Psychoanalytic Theory
If psychoanalysis is to be understood as an ?exiled? or secularized version of Jewish mysticism, one might well expect to find some ?residue? of Jewish‑mystical themes in psychoanalysis itself. Indeed, two such Jewish themes do make their appearance in Freud's work: the first, and most prominent is the theme of ?exile and redemption?; and the second, and most mystical, is the theme of ?all things returning to their source.?
We have already seen how the theme of exile and redemption (galut and ge'ulah) makes its appearance both in the theosophy of the kabbalah and in the Freudian theory of the repressed. The kabbalists interpreted the historical exile of the Jewish people in theosophical terms in their doctrine that the world's evil and negativity resulted from the exile of divine light from its Godly source. The Chasidim psychologized this notion and held that the individual himself experiences a psychological exile from the divine root of his own soul and that this exile must be overcome if the individual is to achieve psychological harmony and peace. Finally, Freud adopted a similar view that in the neurotic individual aspects of the self (i.e., repressed impulses, ideas and emotions) are exiled from the individual's ego, and that, in effect, they must be redeemed in the process of psychoanalytic cure.
Interestingly, however, Freud and his followers not only adopted the Jewish/Chasidic view that the theme of exile and redemption is embodied in the very nature of the human psyche, but also saw the entire psychoanalytic movement in redemptive terms. Freud showed a keen interest in the figure of Moses and his struggles to achieve redemption for the Jewish people. However, for Freud (as for other would‑be secular Jewish redeemers such as Marx), religion, and the Jewish religion in particular, is an enslaving rather than a redemptive force. According to Freud, Moses, the redeemer who frees the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt, actually institutes a new form of (psychological) repression and exile through the imposition of a restrictive and overly harsh morality and law. By overturning the Mosaic order, psychoanalysis would presumably free the world from the yoke of the archaic superego imposed by religion, and thereby provide the very redemption promised (but actually made impossible) by Judaism.
A second Jewish mystical theme which appears in Freud's writing can be described as ?the return of all things to their source.? Again, Freud expresses this theme in decidedly negative terms. For while the kabbalists and Chasidim held that all things have an innate desire to return to their source in the infinite God, Freud, in describing his concept of thanatos (the death instinct), concluded that there was an urge inherent in all life to return to a state of complete non‑being, in death. Freud acknowledged that his views on thanatos might give the impression of mysticism, but he believed himself to be free from any such tendencies. However, even his most devoted disciples held that his views on the death instinct were highly speculative and without empirical warrant. Might we not be entitled to regard these views as a secularized, negative mysticism in which the intimate blessed God is replaced by the specter of inorganic death?
The Godly Nature of the Human Soul
Freud's godlessness is not only present in his views of mankind's ultimate fate and redemption, but is also reflected in his psychological theories and psychotherapeutic technique. Despite all their similarities, Chasidism and psychoanalysis differ radically inasmuch as the moral categories of the former are reduced to mere descriptions in the latter. What for the Chasidim are essential distinctions between the good and bad inclinations, or between one's Godly and animal souls, are converted in Freud to neutral, purportedly scientific descriptions. Thus, Freud, in his famous analysis of the ?Rat Man,? informs his patient that what the patient experiences as a conflict between his ?good? and his ?evil? self is in reality a conflict between repressed infantile desires and internalized prohibitions. Indeed, according to Freud, the very therapeutic efficacy of psychoanalytic treatment lies in the fact that the analyst provides his patient with an opportunity to discover and reflect upon his internal conflicts with a sympathetic listener who will not judge these conflicts in moral terms.
The therapeutic rationale for a non‑judgmental stance is quite compelling, and there are, to be sure, many individuals who suffer precisely from a morally or religiously induced (inappropriate) guilt which cripples them psychologically. Indeed, the Chasidim themselves, in their emphasis upon asay tov (doing good) as opposed to tur meira (turning away from evil), were in opposition to those elements within Judaism's Mussar movement which would achieve compliance with the mitzvot through the induction of guilt and shame.
Yet, despite the obvious value of ?moral neutrality? as a technique for treatment, it is hardly a position that any Jewish psychotherapist can endorse as a general philosophical stance. Indeed, the value neutrality of psychoanalysis has been criticized even in secular quarters for ultimately leading to a laissez faire attitude towards morality in which all acts are either justified or, at minimum, excused, because they purportedly originate in psychological mechanisms beyond the individual's own control. Furthermore, while classic psychoanalysis provides its adherents with what appears to be an overarching world view (and indeed many of the elements of a ?religion?), it fails to provide the individual with values to live by, values which, according to contemporary psychoanalysts such as Heinz Kohut and George Klein, are the building blocks of the self and, hence, of psychological health. Thus, in spite of its value as a therapeutic technique, psychoanalysis as a world‑view is, at worst, morally irresponsible and at best, psychologically incomplete. Freud's own deep seated pessimism, as expressed, for example, in his thanatos principle, can be understood as resulting from his own failure to acknowledge a source of values beyond the self.
Looked at from a Jewish perspective, we discover that the entire metapsychology of psychoanalysis is, in Chasidic terms, conceived from the point of view of the ?animal soul.? If we recall that for Schneur Zalman each of man's souls has a will and reason of its own, we can see that the animal soul is not simply an equivalent to the Freudian ?id.? To be sure, the animal soul includes within itself the capacity for intellect, emotion, pride, self‑esteem, and even modesty and ambition <197> indeed, the whole range of activities that psychoanalysis would regard as exhaustive of the human psyche. However, the distinguishing mark of the animal soul is that its emotions, thoughts and activities are each dictated by self‑interest.
By way of contrast, man's Godly soul is transcendental in nature and aim. Its desire is for an emotional cleaving with the Deity, a quest for knowledge of the Creator, the sublime, and the holy, and ultimately for the obliteration of the self (bitul) in a unification with the Divine. In kabbalistic terms, man's divine soul is the holy spark which is imprisoned in a kellipah or husk of materiality (the animal soul), a spark which must be raised to a level where it can achieve unification with the infinite divine light. It is the very ?instinct to perfection,? the existence of which Freud took great pains to deny.
In psychological terms, man's Godly soul is that aspect of his self which is concerned with the development, structuring and implementation of values which transcend the self and the individual's biological and personal needs. It is equivalent to that aspect of the self which, according to Chasidism (and also, according to such religiously oriented post‑Freudian analysts as Jung, Frankl, and Fromm), provides the individual with his deepest sense of existential meaning and fulfillment. It is, according to critics of psychoanalysis, Freud's failure to guide the individual in his quest for his Godly soul (for a sense of meaning that transcends the self), and indeed his failure to acknowledge that this aspect of the self even exists, that is his greatest failing.
True morality, according to Schneur Zalman is not the result of internalized prohibitions (the superego) which put the reins on a surging cauldron of impulses (the id), but is, rather, a morality which stems from a basic inner longing for Godliness, a desire to be one with the Good. While Schneur Zalman recognized that, much conventional morality stems from operations of self‑control, i.e., the Freudian superego, this is hardly the Chasidic or Jewish ideal. The morality of the tzaddik (the righteous or saintly individual) as well as the morality of the benoni (the intermediate man) when he operates from the standpoint of his Godly soul, is neither repressive nor constricting, but derives from a free, spontaneous and all consuming love of God, Torah, and the values which Torah represents.
The Potential for Saintliness
Indeed it is an emphasis on man's potential for saintliness that is the distinguishing mark of Chasidic psychology and which places it at odds with the (far more pessimistic) Freudian view.???????????
While Freud's terminology and emphasis changed over the years, the basic goal of psychoanalysis remained essentially the same: to enable the individual to integrate hitherto repressed or split‑off aspects of the self and to bring those aspects of the self, which take the form of libidinous and aggressive impulses or sanctions against these impulses, under conscious, rational control. The psychoanalytic procedure is one in which the patient is encouraged, through the vehicle of the doctor‑patient relationship, to overcome his resistance to acknowledging, understanding and integrating the repressed aspects of his personality.
Chasidism also seeks to overcome resistances and promote self‑understanding in the context of the rebbe‑chasid relationship. It too, has a conception of the unconscious, but one which goes a step beyond the Freudian conception. As Alter Metzger has put it in these pages (Jewish Review Vol. 2, No. 2), in addition to the ?basement? of personality which psychoanalysis refers to as the id, there is, in Chasidism, a ?sub‑basement which contains the core identity of the Jewish soul, a soul which has the inherent capacity for goodness.? It is the uncovering of this sub‑basement, the revelation of the individual's Godly soul to himself, and not the mere uncovering of repressed ?natural? thoughts and affects, which is the goal of Chasidic ?psychotherapy.? The task of the Chasidic rebbe is to achieve, through an empathic understanding of his chasid's subconscious self, an awareness of that chasid's specific potential for ?saintliness.? The rebbe must appreciate that potential in a way that the chasid himself does not yet understand, and must convey that appreciation through the assignment of a task, prayer, or course of study, which is particularly suited to the chasid's personality and life‑stage. Unlike the psychoanalyst, who presumably remains neutral with respect to his patient's life decisions, the rebbe actually recommends a course of action or assigns a specific task which is calculated to serve as a catalyst for profound psychological, moral and spiritual change. While it is not possible for every individual to become a total tzaddik, it is possible for all to achieve a greater awareness and dominance of his Godly soul.
Redeeming the Psychoanalytic Sparks
If we consider the relationship between Freud and Chasidism from the Chasidic point of view, psychoanalysis is, as David Bakan observed over 30 years ago, (albeit for reasons which were, in the main, different from those we have been considering here), a secularization of Jewish mysticism, or to put it in Jewish terms, psychoanalysis is a form of Chasidism which has been exiled from its source. The goal of any Chasidic critique of psychoanalysis would, therefore, be to free the ?holy spark? of Judaism at its core, thus permitting what is truly valuable in the psychoanalytic endeavor to rejoin the tradition from which it sprang. Adin Steinsaltz once suggested that while Chasidism is opposed to the godless orientation of psychoanalysis, it could, itself, greatly benefit from psychoanalytic techniques and discoveries. It is in this sense that I believe it is possible to make psychoanalysis compatible with, and even an integral part of, the life of the observant Jew.
Exile, as painful and alienating as it is felt to be, is not necessarily an altogether bad thing. Indeed, the Talmud tells us that the exile of the Jews in the land of Egypt was the ?crucible? which forged them into the Israelite nation, and that each subsequent exile has had its purpose in preparing the Jewish nation for its mission of tikkun haolam, the restoration of the world.
One can only speculate on the full significance of the ?exile of Chasidism in psychoanalysis,? but one might well suspect that the growth of psychoanalysis within a secular environment promoted the values of tolerance and acceptance in a manner that would have been difficult if not impossible in an Orthodox religious context. As a result of its non‑judgmental posture, psychoanalysis was able to gain access and insight into the nature of the unconscious and the dynamics of psychological conflict which had hitherto been unavailable to the Jewish or any other tradition. The challenge to Chasidism in redeeming the holy sparks within psychoanalysis, is to raise the Freudian enterprise into a realm of Jewish value and significance without abandoning the openness to psychological truth and the willingness to accept man wherever he is, in the darkest as well as the brightest aspects of his soul, which is the crowning achievement of Freud and his followers. May we, in this generation, be worthy to pursue and achieve such a goal.