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His only apologia for doing so: the recreated story is far less fantastic than the traditional account!


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Anyone who reads Freud's r This was an interesting little book that is partly a digression from Freud's larger ideological framework of the psychological development of religious belief. Anyone who reads Freud's recasting of the story and scoffs has obviously read the Biblical account with a desensitized logic and hyper-romantic credence in tradition. Better than Freud's admittedly hack-job attempt at demythologizing the Moses story is his exploration of the development of myth and 'great man' archetypes in human psychology. Not that one is strong-armed to agree with his conclusions Carl Jung staunchly opposed much of his over-sexed reductionist theories as well , but some of his interpretive processes seem like something anyone can learn something from.

There's no denying his genius in the realm of psychoanalytic trailblazing, and it would take a truly unappreciative tyro to engage with Freud and laugh him out of a dialogue simply because his views appear outrageous. Eccentricity is the privilege of genius, and one would be hard-pressed to overlook the important contributions this book makes into applying psychoanalytic methods into specific faith traditions, especially one that the author himself could culturally identify with.

That being said, I feel that the true value in this book was to introduce me to Freud's thoughts on religious myth developments, and after reading I was inspired enough to read further in some of Freud's writings on this topic in particular. Dec 16, Bria rated it it was amazing.

This book is amazing to me, because I love learning about the origins of religion, and I never knew that Freud thought religion was just a mass neurosis, which pleased me to no end. Oct 03, T Fool rated it really liked it Shelves: reviewed-books. Much in and around those defining boundaries cannot be taken at the face value the list seems neutrally to set out. In the minds of some, to be a Jew is to be a bit strange, even, still, suspect of something one might not suspect anyone else of. The history of Jews in relation to other peoples cannot remotely be handled here, nor is it being handled by an intellectual master like Freud in his book.

What might be pointed out is the delicacy with which Moses and Monotheism feels it must proceed. The text itself starts more than once, first when Freud began his project in Vienna and wondered at the reception it might get from Catholic authorities, and then again when he emigrated to England, a freer place, but at a yet more dangerous time, after the Nazi Anschluss with Austria.

To be a Jew then was to be marked by a political anthropology aimed to eliminate them. From our vantage, we see the results. Freud could only suspect, but his eyes were open. Critics of Freud took him to task years before not just for upsetting religious orientations, but for challenging the Victorian air everyone at that time breathed. His sacrilege — if we wish to call it that — was both his dedication to science and his stretching its borders to the edge of myth. The scientific view of the modern sensibility simply had no room for religion or myth as explanation.

Even many of the scientists, though, would take issue with speculations Freud makes, but the bones they would pick would be ones of technique and procedure, strength of evidence and inconclusiveness. To the scientist, he steps over the line into speculative philosophy. His practice treating the mentally ill led him to define an inner-dynamic of personality development, as we know, surrounding family members, sexual feeling, and the traumas during that development, sometimes particular and unusual, but often just those brought about simply in the human nature of things.

By the late 30s when Freud was writing MAM , many of these notions were commonly spoken of and part of European intellectual life. In that volume, he reconstructs a primal crime around which later civilization arises. According to that theory, early bands of humans were ruthlessly ruled by a single male figure, a father who killed off or subjugated his sons and appropriated all the women to himself.

The Unexamined Paradoxes of Freud’s “Moses and Monotheism” » Mosaic

At some point, the sons arose, killed their father, and apportioned blame and justification among themselves. In Moses And Monotheism , he proposes that the family dynamic he has found in his clinical work and which he extended to cultural formation is no less applicable to the way religion developed in the Western world. This Moses banded with the Hebrews and departed Egypt.

The second was a leader linked to Midianites. In group memory, the Midianite leader took on the identity of Moses and the practice of circumcision. Freud sees in that imagined historical movement the replicated fear and wish an individual feels when confronted by great power that seems to threaten father. We resolve those feelings. For Freud, human cultural and religious institutions form the way earliest human personalities form. As stunning as those ideas might be when first encountered, the case Freud makes — given adherence to his basic theories and given his conceded reliance on the best, but sketchy, historical evidence — that case rings plausible.

It can be dismissed out-of-hand — likely with shock — by readers firm in their commitment to faith, but it has to give pause to readers open to fair speculation. Whether Freud is right is beside the point. His boldness and integrity is clear, as is his imaginative reach. As myth, its explanatory power provides a fertile material grounding to the puzzle of human existence. Shelves: read-own-book , phil , sig. Highly speculative re-imagining of the Moses myth as well as a general account of primitive religions and the transition to a monotheistic platform.

I'm not sure why Freud is concerned about Moses's race. I would think most modern scholars reject the very existence of Moses. Egypt, for a short period of time, had the Pharaoh Akhenaten who proclaimed that their existed one God. This may have been an attempt to draw a similarity between God and his own rule. That there is one god means that there Highly speculative re-imagining of the Moses myth as well as a general account of primitive religions and the transition to a monotheistic platform.

That there is one god means that there should be one dominant ruler of society; Freud puts this more elegantly saying, "God was the reflection of a Pharaoh autocratically governing a great world Empire. After his death Egypt reverted to their previous many-gods stuff.

So, anyways, perhaps it is the case that Moses stole that idea.


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  5. Freud dives into the explanation of religious phenomena as a model of neurotic symptoms of the individual. Thus we identify with 'God' because our primitive selves identified with the Father of a tribe. Much of Freud's psycho-analytic techniques used are lost on me. I enjoy the idea of the neurotic stages though: "early trauma - defense - latency - outbreak of the neurosis - partial return of the repressed material. There is an interesting history concerning the publication of this book. Freud wrote the first two small parts and published them in Germany.

    These consist of the speculation that Moses is Egyptian and the significance that may hold. Due to the rise of the Nazis, Freud feared to release the third, more significant and risque, part of the book. He left to England and eventually published it, still in fear that he would lose valuable friends over the ordeal. Now, based on the fact that Freud died in the same year as Freud died, I doubt he felt much negative impact from the publication.

    He states in , while still in Vienna, "[the book] may lie hid until the light of day, or until someone else who reaches the same opinions and conclusions can be told: 'In darker days there lived a man who thought as you did. Just because something makes 'psychological sense' does not mean that it occurred.

    Freud treats psycho-analysis like we would now treat physics, or any of the more testable and reliable sciences. I think this book works better as an interesting literary speculation and interpretation of unreliable historical texts and inferences drawn from archeology and biology. Jan 03, Jacqueline Betro added it. I didn't put a number of stars on this review because, ironically, I don't have a single, uncomplex opinion of this book.

    Freud, on the other hand, proposes his thesises with an absolute air of certainty that, unanalyzed, captures the reader and has her knodding her head. Although, once you really look into his arguements, you see his proof is fragile and most of the time "proof" for his thesises ARE thesises he's conjured himself. One of the footnotes actually begs the reader not to look fully I didn't put a number of stars on this review because, ironically, I don't have a single, uncomplex opinion of this book.

    One of the footnotes actually begs the reader not to look fully into the scripture he cites because, when looked at wholely, it would falsify his arguement. He goes on to say that, just as any other person with an agenda, he takes details out of context to further support his thesises. He admits this in a footnote, although he makes sure to word it in the most complex and misleading way in order to deter the reader from noticing. Regardless, if you choose to open up your skull, take out your brain, and hand it to and trust it with Freud, you will be taken though the possibilities of the old testiment and of ancient religions.

    If you choose to follow him blindly and accept his sometimes frivoless bodies of "proof", you will be lead into explorative thought as he adresses all of the possibilities of the birth of Judeism and Monotheism and the historical and biblical faults with the story of Moses.

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    I don't want to give too much away about his views and beliefs because if thats given away there is nothing left in the book. Although I'm skeptical, I still enjoyed being lead through his thought process and analysis and if you're going to read Freud, I'd say that this is the one to read since it's probably the least offensive. Ohhh Freud, I think we're gunna have trust issues. View 2 comments. Sep 21, Leah rated it really liked it.

    This book is stylistically genius, who else could get away with saying If Moses gave the news not only a new religion, but also the law of circumision, he was no Jew, but an Egyptian, and then the Mosaic religion was probably an Egyptian one. I am reading Moses and Monotheism again after having romped through a more thorough selection of the rest of Freud's ouevre.

    I have to say that it is no longer as impressive as it was to me, but only because it numbers among the best and not as the best.

    Freud's Moses

    This is a brilliant book, a fantastical reconstruction of biblical history through a series of actually rather plausible linguistic analysis, an argument for the basis of monotheism in human psychology, and a fantastic example of a book that repeats itself and yet manages something new in the repetition. Jun 03, Sonia Jarmula rated it did not like it Shelves: non-fiction. Like everything Freud wrote, absolute bullshit. Apr 07, Tom Bane rated it really liked it. Moses and Monotheism- Never heard of it? Freud explores the original hypothesis that Akhenaten was in fact Moses, and Moses became the first monotheist, primarily dev Moses and Monotheism- Never heard of it?

    Freud explores the original hypothesis that Akhenaten was in fact Moses, and Moses became the first monotheist, primarily devoted to the cult of the one god- the Sun, and in the midst of and in spite of Egyptian polytheistic beliefs and their powerful pantheon of gods, the sun cult took on a central role and major preoccupation in his life and the society he created.

    The Egyptian Moses, in Freud's hypothesis, then found himself a people, the Hebrews, who could follow his monotheistic teachings when the powerful Amun priesthood disposed of him and pushed him out of Egypt. Some of Freud's theories are a product of the Vienna circle and the zeitgeist at the time, following his contemporaries' ideas on Biblical Criticism, yet his critical exploration of the subject combined with his expertise of human psychology and psychoanalysis still ring true today.

    This academic and insightful book is still well worth your time. I explain some of his themes further in my own novel- "Masks of the Lost Kings" Sep 25, [Name Redacted] rated it really liked it. An unintentionally amusing attempt to explain away the religion in which Freud was raised. He fails spectacularly, owing mostly to the emotional basis for his enterprise, but also to his decision to pick and choose the historical, linguistic and sociological bits which best supported his theories.

    Sadly, the existence of an invisible, all-powerful creator god is MORE plausible than the pseudo-historical narratives he creates. Still, it's a quick read and very interesting, mostly because of the i An unintentionally amusing attempt to explain away the religion in which Freud was raised.

    Still, it's a quick read and very interesting, mostly because of the insight it gives the reader into Freud's own psyche and his evidently-unconscious resentment of the culture in which he had been raised, and his devotion to the culture in which he earned his fame.

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    View all 4 comments. Oct 04, DeadWeight rated it did not like it. A special kind of stupid — Freud sinking to the level of internet-conspiracy-theory-tier logic, suggests the Jews irl killed Moses so they could worship a volcano god. Apr 10, Adam DeVille, Ph. It was, I think, Christopher Lasch who summed up Freud especially in this book best: as a clinician working with individuals, Freud gave us some startling and significant insights we should still, rightly, pay attention to; but as a culture theorist analyzing religion, Freud was totally out of his depth and can and should therefore be ignored.

    Exactly right. Jun 30, Daniel Polansky added it Shelves: non-fiction. Fun, though!

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    Feb 01, Erik Graff rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Freud's fans. Shelves: psychology. I took my first course on psychoanalytic theory and its history from Ann Bedford Ulanov, an analytical psychologist, at UTS. I'd already read a bunch of Freud before and this was the most fun of the lot. The assigned readings in this and later courses were much less interesting than the suggested additional readings wherein Freud indulged in various enthusiasms f.

    Moses and Monotheism is not entirely crazy. Given the state of scholarship at the time of its composition, the thirties, his making a connection between the legendary founder of the Hebrew religion and the sun-worshipping iconoclastic pharaoh, Akhenaten, was neither entirely original nor beyond the range of consideration. The other business about collective guilt for the murder of their Egyptian leader, while clearly an application of the theories adduced in Totem and Taboo, takes Freud into airy heights of speculations built on speculations, a house of cards with little substance except as an explication of how very seriously he took some of his own theories at the end of his life.

    But Freud knew this and his self-indulgence was no more extreme than that of others in the psychoanalytic community such as Otto Rank with his birth trauma theory. Aug 16, Carolyn rated it liked it. In his later life, Freud turned to anthropology. Totem and Taboo and Moses and Monotheism complete a cycle that applied psychoanalysis to human history.

    Confusingly, Freud does not always credit his sources. This is a serious oversight, as most of his information comes from other scholars. His attempt to use the psychoanalysis of the family to understand the history of the Jewish In his later life, Freud turned to anthropology. His attempt to use the psychoanalysis of the family to understand the history of the Jewish people ultimately fails.

    However, read this as an artifact and remember that Freud's dynamic mind was suffering because of Nazism and cancer. There are pearls of insight: Moses was an Egyptian, probably a priest of Aten, the first monotheist religion; he joined with Hebrew groups, one of which worshiped a minor god named Yahweh; his compelling religion set its people apart; Christianity can be seen as the psychological drama of the son succeeding the old father.

    Mar 08, Gokul Alex rated it really liked it. Transparent and argumentative approach by Freud. Deviating from the early approaches of Freud. Apr 08, David rated it really liked it Shelves: life-syllabus , read I mean, come on! This is one of those books you read with your jaw just dropping open at times. It's bold, creative, and maybe utterly nuts but so interesting! It also makes you a little sad. This is the kind of big, bold, bonkers moves that thinkers and "public intellectuals" used to carry out. These days all we seem to get is Chicken Soups or 12 Rules or some Pinker rah-rah-ing how great everything is now, amazing, better than ever as long as you're rich and male and cis and white, he always I mean, come on!

    These days all we seem to get is Chicken Soups or 12 Rules or some Pinker rah-rah-ing how great everything is now, amazing, better than ever as long as you're rich and male and cis and white, he always forgets to add. Probably this shows I am a sucker for bold and irreverent theories that recast all of human history, all the way back before we were writing or even talking much. But aren't you tired of the timid nibbling around the edges of the known that you usually get?

    Here's someone going big! I got to this book via Adam Kotsko 's very useful policial theology reading list , and it's a wild ride. Enjoy it. Kotsko's done some really nice work. Definitely check out The Prince of This World. Aug 02, Brian Ferrell rated it really liked it. I was fascinated by this personal story about Freud's journey into the hypothesis that Moses was born Egyptian and took elements of what became Judaism from Egypt during the reign of Akhenaten.

    Akhenaten, of course, is most well-known for focusing all worship on the sun god Aten instead of the many gods that had been worshipped previously. I've always been fascinated with Egypt and after recently learning more about the "heretic pharaoh" Akhenaten , I was looking for a book like this. It's heavi I was fascinated by this personal story about Freud's journey into the hypothesis that Moses was born Egyptian and took elements of what became Judaism from Egypt during the reign of Akhenaten. It's heavily dependent on Freud's psychoanalytical work, which frees it from the limitations of interpreting the scant physical evidence, as well as giving Freud ample opportunity to talk about how great and smart he is.

    In any case, I appreciated this unique approach. I also appreciated the story behind the story. Parts of this were written before and after Freud left Austria to escape the Nazis. This move also helped Freud overcome his fear of publishing this work, since London was much more tolerant of religious criticism.


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    I recommend this if you're interested in Moses, his time in Egypt, and early monotheism and don't mind getting a bit psychoanalytical. Jun 21, Argin Gerigorian rated it it was ok Shelves: psychology. Freud as usual with a twist. I've read small pieces by Freud here and there but am not impressed with his theories, especially when it comes to the historical reliability of the Scriptures. Freud is akin to old school liberal scholars in this work entitled "Moses and Monotheism" and completely undermines orthodox Biblical scholarship defending the historicity of Moses and his Jewish roots. Freud argues that Moses was an Egyptian and his doctrine of Monotheism didn't come from the blue but from the Freud as usual with a twist.

    Freud argues that Moses was an Egyptian and his doctrine of Monotheism didn't come from the blue but from the Ikhanaton B. C doctrine and worship of Aton the "one" god. Freud is of-course psychological in his approaches to some of the decision making and treats Scripture as a below par reference for history.

    Moses and Monotheism

    Instead he goes to other intelligent scholars to "prove" his points. For example, if we only have one historical writing that records the exodus of Moses, then what difference does it make whether 1 scholar believes in its veracity of 1 million do? However the very presupposition is faulty namely that such a source Holy Writ cannot be trusted.

    Akhenaten and Egyptian Monotheism

    The other people would then have had reason to say: "Indeed, they were right; they are God's chosen people. On the strength of my previous remarks we may say that it was the man Moses who stamped the Jewish people with this trait, one which became so significant to them for all time. He enhanced their self-confidence by assuring them that they were the chosen people of God; he declared them to be holy and laid on them the duty to keep apart from others. Not that the other peoples on their part lacked self-confidence.

    Then, just as now, each nation thought itself superior to all the others. The self-confidence of the Jews, however, became through Moses anchored in religion; it became a part of their religious belief. By the particularly close relationship to their God they acquired a part of his grandeur. And since we know that behind the God who chose the Jews and delivered them from Egypt stood the man Moses, who achieved that deed, ostensibly at God's command, I venture to say this: it was one man, the man Moses, who created the Jews.

    To him this people owes its tenacity in supporting life; to him, however, also much of the hostility which it has met with and is meeting still. The People of Israel Used with permission. All rights reserved.