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Translated by Joe Pryce

520. Reflections on "Psychoanalysis". So-called psychoanalysis (=analysis of the soul) is the bizarre bastard spawned by a still more bizarre misalliance: that between Herbart’s atomism of representation and Nietzsche’s philosophy of self-deception. It is obvious also that the monstrous creature bears traces of certain additional influences of a more exotic nature, for example, in the shape of the doctrine that the entire man, and, indeed, the entire world, is just sex; or, to express it more moderately, that the living individual is a mere appendix to his genes, a variable dependent in relation to them. This is an idea of which traces are found already with Schopenhauer, and which was cultivated later by various biologists, who derived this notion from a doctrine that was espoused by medicine long ago (certain scholastic doctors, for example, taught that sperma virile, if not spent, rises into the brain and there becomes spirit). But this kind of theory really has only a vulgar interest, and is a mere unsubstantiated belief; a proof cannot even be attempted from the very nature of the case. (If, in accordance with this theory, the equation is set up, God = sex, then we have one of the main directions of the psychoanalytic Weltanschauung; if the equation is reversed, sex = God, we have the other direction.) We need not pursue this any further.

From Herbart, whose tradition was never completely interrupted in Austria, we receive the idea of species of atoms of imagination which struggle for admission on the "threshold of consciousness," sometimes inhibiting and at other times aiding one another; from Herbart also we receive the idea of repression; according to him, all strivings are due to instances of repression…When this idea was linked together with Nietzsche’s view, which attributes a decisive influence upon the course of the activity of consciousness to the urges, and not least to the urges for self-esteem, a mythology of the so-called unconscious arose to which we must allow the charm of the sensational, had not its inventors been wholly afflicted with imaginative blindness. For this unconscious has a curious resemblance to a well-prepared defense lawyer; its sole function is to use every kind of maneuver in order to persuade consciousness to believe in whatever would be advantageous to the obvious, and even more to the secret, interests of the conscious entity, and especially to shatter its belief in everything that might disturb his self-esteem. Nietzsche’s subtle and profound investigations of the tactics of self-deception are here translated into the language of the tedious office politics that may be studied in modern business life or in the diplomatic ploys of our politicians. This method seeks a more prestigious status by calling itself "depth-psychology."

But whatever may be the origin of all this, the psychoanalyst asserts that he is in possession of the truth, and points for confirmation to the innumerable "cases" of which he disposes, i.e., his patients. However, two sides of the case must here be distinguished: the confession that the analyst elicits from the patient by means of an examination that is based upon what he imagines to be so-called associations, and successful cures by means of what is described by the pretty word "abreaction" [Abreaktion]. With regard to the confessions, the entire history of psychoanalysis really spares us the proof that they either possess, or can possess, any demonstrative force. At first the data obtained through this species of confessional were taken at their face value, i.e., as being events that had really transpired in the life of the confessor. Later on, however, it was found necessary to take them partly for fiction, although they might have a certain symptomatic value; and today even this symptomatic value has undergone a change, because it is clear that such confessions are often merely expressions of how the "conscious" mind of the patient would prefer to see the meaning of his trouble (and hence himself) interpreted. But whatever is the proportion of demonstrable events, of supplementary material, and of unadulterated fiction, the insistent view that this method will lead to the discovery of the etiology of the disease overlooks the fact that the source of the disease is already presupposed as an x, if this confessional method (which is often extended through years) is to be possible at all. Further, it is necessary only to look more closely at any complicated example of analysis to see that the meaning of the case, which the examiner requires for the validation of his doctrine, is imported by him, and that he achieves success by virtue of a method which has the rare advantage that it never fails: to the extent that the data that he elicits suit his view, he takes them literally; to the extent that they do not, he takes them metaphorically, or, rather, as phantasms that have been substituted for wholly different contents of imagination. For this purpose he has prepared a system of a sexual symbolic language that, without exaggeration, can be applied to any single object in the universe. (For, after all, one can pigeon hole every object in the universe as being convex or concave in some manner!) One must share this faith in order to believe in this kind of imaginary demonstration. 

There remain, then, the cures. In order not to involve ourselves in endless digressions, let us examine them point by point: (1) If we possessed statistics of unassailable accuracy about all patients who were treated by psychoanalysis, we might become skeptical about these healers. Apart from a certain proportion of persons who were relieved of the disturbing symptoms, we would find a large proportion of those who ran away from their examiners, and no small proportion of those who were all the worse for the confessional. We are aware of most serious cases of this kind; (2) It is certain that these classes exist; but the proportions remain uncertain, for we do not possess statistics. We will therefore confine ourselves to the cures. We disregard the fact that in the treatment of every patient, but especially of a neurotic, the personal influence of the healer (whether he is a declared hypnotist, or homeopath, or internist, or psychoanalyst, etc.) plays an incalculable part. We also disregard the fact that psychoanalysis was fashionable for a time and still is so to some extent, and therefore, for reasons that will easily be understood, carries with it, in the eyes of the neurotic patient, an aura which assists the cure. On the other hand, it does something that would retain its curative value, even if all of the reasons that determine it were false: it gives the patient a full opportunity of "having a good talk." Here it follows the approved methods of the Roman Catholic confessional. (3) In addition, it deals chiefly with hysterical patients. If we were right in saying that the hysterical type possesses abnormally small formative force combined with a highly developed desire to represent, then it encourages him even to tell tales, to lie, and to invent; it affords him an opportunity of forming his inner life. (4) But it affects something greater besides. Probably more neurotic types, and certainly all hysterical, suffer from secret feelings of inferiority, although they are not always aware of the fact. Although the psychoanalytical confessional may be a plague, it offers him a ten-fold recompense by showing him new possibilities of taking himself seriously--very seriously--internally. Whatever crackpot notion or thought may creep through his consciousness, it is seen to be significant; it may even turn out to be an enchanted prince! A curious method, though nonetheless efficient, for strengthening self-esteem. (5) But psychoanalysis also has its secret, which, however, we are unwilling to publish, for perhaps it is effective only because the psychoanalysts themselves do not know it. Also, in order to reveal it, we would have to unfold the psychologist’s psychology, which, though somewhat more entertaining than psychoanalysis, would also require a more lengthy exposition. If the author of these lines were a neurologist, he too would occasionally psychoanalyze his patients, and, perhaps, he too would be successful: not because he considers there to be any truth in the psychoanalytic chat, but because he holds that this prescription fits with amazing exactness a contemporary variety of neurosis. The two arise together necessarily, and will vanish together, for every epoch has its own neurosis, and no epoch that of another.

We trust that none of our readers will harbor the absurd suspicion that this effusion upon psychoanalysis is intended as an attack upon psychoanalysts. A genuine psychoanalyst cannot be refuted, and he is a fool who makes the attempt. It is true that there are many psychoanalysts who are not psychoanalysts at all. They do as Rome does--as the author too would do if he specialized in nervous cases. (In this matter the purse too can play a part.) But the real psychoanalyst--the man who holds the psychoanalytical Weltanschauung--is the true member of a religion, and as such cannot be assailed. If objections to personal immortality are raised before a strict Christian, he would not pay a moment’s attention to them, but would ask himself what faults or even sins of the speaker prevented the light of the truth from illuminating him. If objections are raised before a true psychoanalyst, he does not attend to their value as proofs for a moment, but only asks himself what complexes or "repressions" (of sexual origin, of course) can be preventing the speaker from seeing and recognizing the light of truth--of psychoanalytic truth, that is. Predestination, beginning at the gene, determines the genuine psychoanalyst as it determines the genuine Christian. We therefore do not touch upon this matter; but we considered it proper to say a word about this scientific fashion, because we ourselves had an opinion to offer upon the nature of hysteria.

We would add expressly that there is one psychoanalyst to whom the above remarks about psychoanalysts do not apply unreservedly, namely, Freud. The man who founds a religion or initiates a new direction--and every direction has one initiator only--is of a very different stamp from his disciples, a fact which is not altered by feeble attempts at insubordination such as occur among all bodies of disciples: but Freud is a pioneer, and if any part of his work should survive, it will be associated with his name, and with his name alone. If he believes in the doctrine of psychoanalysis, he does so because he made, or, if it be preferred, created it: and although a pioneer can neither be taught nor converted, it requires no common degree of simplicity in order to confuse his obstinacy with that of a disciple. The psychology of the pioneer is of a different class, and does not here concern us. But we would say that this man has some of the true speculative spirit, together with temperament and stubborn tenacity. Unfortunately, he has an inferior soul and a narrow horizon. This is to be regretted for other than merely practical reasons, for such thoroughbred energy might have been expected to make real, and not only imaginary, discoveries! (SW 4 pp. 329-32)

Translated by Joe Pryce from the original sources. For reference, notes refer to the more easily obtainable texts:

AC=Klages, L. Zur Ausdruckslehre und Charakterkunde. Heidelberg. 1926. 

AG=Klages, L. Ausdrucksbewegung und Gestaltungskraft. Munich. 1968.

LK GL=Schroeder, H. E. Ludwig Klages Die Geschichte Seines Lebens. Bonn. 1966-1992. 

PEN=Klages, L. Die psychologischen Errungenschaften Nietzsches. Leipzig. 1926

RR=Klages, L. Rhythmen und Runen. Leipzig. 1944. 

SW=Klages, L. Sämtliche Werke. Bonn. 1965-92.

NEW  The Biocentric Metaphysics of Ludwig Klages | Introduction to Cosmogonic Reflections | Aphorisms 1-100 | Aphorisms 101-200 | Aphorisms 201-300 | Aphorisms 301-400 | Aphorisms 401-515 | A Letter On Ethics and Imagination and the Images | The Problem of Socrates and Images and their Messages | Reflections on "Psychoanalysis" | Man and Earth | Soul and Spirit | Selected Poetry | Consciousness and Life | Rosenberg contra Klages | Webmaster: Kevin Alfred Strom | Kevin Alfred Strom Historical Archive

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