Moses and Monotheism

Admittedly, I've read portions of this collection of essays from Freud before. However, in reading it all the way through I've come to appreciate a couple of things about Freud. a) the man can really make an argument and b) that this book is underrated. Scholars such as Jan Assman are hard on Freud for being a self-hating Jew and use this book as a testament to that perceived character flaw. This criticism is weak when one considers the careful thinking and logic that go into Freud's argument that Moses was an Egyptian and the implications for the development of his religious faith. This is a personal struggle, but one that is carefully articulated and presented not so much to exorcise his internal demons but to instead provide some jumping-off point for reconsidering the genesis of the Jewish faith.

While the reconstruction of Moses as a historical figure is a shaky and not entirely legitimate pursuit given the scantiness of the records and the vast amounts of time that have passed, Freud does his best to respect the figure of Moses while postulating various theories on his hagiography and possible multiple identities. The result is refreshing in it's clarity and unique in it's approach. Freud uses his latency theory to explain the development of monotheism, drawing on Ahkenaten's failed campaign for the same. Basically he argues that the religion given by Moses fell into disuse before it was reformed by a later Midanite Moses who reinvigorated the concept of monotheism in order to galvanize a fractured group into a military powerhouse. He loses points for suggesting that all religion is basically neurosis, but what can you do? The man had to make a living.

"Perhaps man declares simply that the higher achievement is what is more difficult to attain, and his pride in it is only narcissism heightened by his consciousness of having overcome difficulty." p.151

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