With Freud in a Parisian Café
With Freud in a Parisian Cafe
After the two friends had arrived at Paris, they spent the rest of the day searching for a suitable place to lodge, and finally decided to stay at a Youth Hostel in Paris. They clearly needed a rest, so they spent the rest of that night catching up on sleep. The next day the two friends went sightseeing in the city and passed by a cafe.
Michael: What do you say, Yousef. Let's sit down and have a cup of tea here.
Yousef: I don’t mind. I feel that I really need a short break anyway.
Michael: Did you know that Sigmund Freud, the famous psychiatrist, used to sit at this cafe. Have you heard of him?
Yousef: Yes, his name is associated with a school of psychoanalysis in psychology. He is also associated with the call to be detached from ethics and the call to pornography.
Michael: For us he is an important scientist, regardless of the associations that you've just mentioned.
Yousef: As a matter of fact, I think he is one of the pillars of thought that formed the civilization of modern Western societies, after Darwin, Marx, Durkheim and Sartre. Each of them carried out their role in shaking the Western thought and re-forming it according to the new sanctities of the West. Each of them played a role in destroying religion, morality and tradition.
Darwin's theory of evolution was the spark that fired two dangerous missiles of thought, which were used by those who came after him to damage the ideological foundations of the time. The first missile spread the idea of constant evolution, which eliminated the idea of stability, and thus indicated the relativity of all values, ideas and perceptions. The second missile was the suggestion that humans are purely animalistic and materialistic, and that only materialistic factors affect him, completely ignoring the spiritual aspect, and denying that this man has been created by God, either directly or via the process of evolution. This was the strong impetus that resulted in destroying the established concepts about major philosophical questions on God, Man the universe and fate.
The role of Freud included that he referred to man as a group of sexual complexes, and denied that the human mind directs man's manners. He also said that the main motive of a human in his or her daily life is that of pleasure. In that sense, the system of morality was demolished; It became unprogressive and backward, and was described as being unrealistic and unscientific.
Michael: I think that there are factors common to all human civilizations and there are special factors that characterize each civilization from the other. These concepts which you mentioned before are common to all civilizations, but each culture is different from the other in the way in which they present these concepts. One civilization gives precedence to one of these concepts over the remaining two, and tackles them in light of the first concept.
After the Renaissance, Contemporary European Civilization was dominated by the concept of the universe, and when scientific thought began to spread, a new kind of thinking prevailed that canceled out the origin of God's creation of man and brought about the materialistic view in its place. Thus, the spiritual dimension in man was killed, and indeed it cannot be denied that Darwin was one of the great thinkers who founded this direction.
Yousef: I completely agree with that, but I draw your attention to several issues regarding what you've just said:
The first is that the main reason for the clear revolution of ideas at the time was the existence of a spiritual and scientific vacuum in the Western society. There was also the dominance of the church and its insistence on erroneous views concerning the creation and life, which the church deemed a necessary part of their belief.
The second, which is one of the most common mistakes, is the belief that the cause of progress in the West is its adoption of those views and theories that were common at the beginning and middle of the Renaissance period.
Thirdly, views and theories of these thinkers and philosophers started collapsing, one theory after the other, after the real scientific revolution. Despite this, many of those who do not have much culture in the West and East are still under the influence of the strong propaganda that supports these ideas.
As for what you've just mentioned about the common concepts between civilizations, it reminds me of an unusual comparison between Freud's theory in the interpretation of human behavior and the words of one Muslim scholar which was recorded some seven hundred years ago.
Michael: It’s very unusual that there are similarities between Freud's words and the Islamic concepts of a Muslim scholar at that time.
Yousef: It is not a similarity in concepts, but a similarity that can be called a "similarity in structure". In order to make the matter clearer: Do you know what the Freudian idea about the components of the human psychic apparatus is?
Michael: Yes, I know it well. Basically, Freud imagined that just as human bodies have biological functions that organize biological processes, such as the digestive and circulatory system, etc., the human body also has a psychic apparatus that consists of parts that are related to each other.
This apparatus consists of what he called: the Id, the superego, and the ego.
The Id is the area consisting of special urgent instincts, desires, repressed experiences and primitive tendencies constantly waiting, restlessly and blindly, to be present in the area of consciousness, to realize its desires in accordance with the principle of pleasure.
The Id is the first component of the psychic apparatus to be formed. It consists of what a human carries at birth and all that which will be determined by his special composition. The Id represents the impact of genetics.
The superego represents the set of social values, principles and ideals, that is, the impact of what a person receives from others; and includes the impact of education and moral values acquired by the child from his parents, his school and society, the influence of family, and ethnic, national and religious traditions. This is in addition to the requirements of the direct social milieu that they represent. The superego of a child is also affected in the course of its development by the successors of the parents or their surrogates, such as educators and people in the community who represent revered ideals. This superego also limits the complete fulfillment of all instinctive or sensual acts, since it represents the conscience, for it is the area of idealism that is far from realism, and it always demands reaching perfection, not pleasure - according to Freud.
As for the ego, it can be described as the result of conflict, compatibility or interaction between the Id and the superego, between the desires based on the principle of pleasure and the ideals and principles based on control and restriction. The ego is the watchful sense that resolves the crisis existing with reality, or between desires, to maintain a balanced personality. Ultimately, it is the outcome of the human personality manifested in its external behavior.
The superego, which is that aspect which is separate from the ego and represents the role of a supervisor over the ego, warns the ego against submitting to the Id and responding to repressed desires.
Yousef: Excellent explanation Michael! You've explained it as if you're Freud himself sitting in the cafe, sipping a cup of tea...
But allow me to continue this vibrant explanation by adding that Freud recognized the difficulty of the task carried out by the ego in the psychic apparatus. This difficult, if not impossible, task is to reconcile between contradictory requirements, since the ego has to meet the requirements of the Id, which are mainly sexual desires, and at the same time take into account the requirements of the external environment (the superego), which are moral and social requirements. That is the reason why the process of reconciliation seems difficult. The ego thus seeks to build a relationship of understanding and reconciliation with the Id and seeks to satisfy its desires. It, however, clashes with the superego and the reality that regulates sexual relations according to certain criteria, often leading to the suppression and repulsion of sexual desires. If the ego is able to balance between the Id, the superego and reality, the individual lives in harmony. If, however, the Id or the superego overcomes the personality, this leads to its discomfiture, for the failure of the ego to find a balance between these conflicting desires leads to psychological problems.
The dangerous aspect here is that if we say that mental health, in this sense meaning the ego, complies with the Id, representing here desires and sensual tendencies, and with the superego, representing here values, principles and ideals, and that failure to meet the wishes of the Id leads to frustration, and keeping in mind that we can't change the Id, then what is left for us in order to reach this compliance is to change the superego and destroy it, if necessary. It was therefore necessary to drive religion and moral ideals out of our lives, and replace them with opportunistic ethics compatible with the human lusts and sexual and selfish desires that satisfy the Id. This is exactly what happened in the West, when religion and ethics were distanced, and passions and sexual relations were unleashed, undisciplined by ethical restrictions. The West established its civilization on these bases. The family was demolished; in fact the humanity of humans was lost, since there was no longer anything to distinguish it from the irrational animal society, which does not know the rules of ethics outside the framework of nature and instinct. Here we are returning to Darwin, after we started with him!!!
Michael: You mean to say that if pent desires always seek to be gratified, and this gratification is achieved either directly or indirectly, then that leads, according to your understanding of Freud and his school, to the conclusion that a civilization that is based on principles, ideals and moral values is a civilization that is the result of repression.
Yousef: Yes, for when the Western civilization produces moral values, it does not takethe sanctity of God into account. Muslims, on the other hand, see that the source of morality in human societies should be from a divine law, not from the mind; because the mind alone will certainly deviate, but if the mind is in the context of that divine law, then the morals that it produces will be sublime morals.
Michael: But you did not tell me, Yousef, what that Muslim scholar you mentioned earlier said. Did what he say agree with what we've just said, or was he against it?
Yousef: What he said was within a system of values and concepts, and our review of this system and putting his words in context will take us a long time, I think that we should postpone that for the next dialogue.