Finally the truth has sunk in: Freud was a charlatan who produced not a single verifiable story of clinical success.
All his pet theories, starting with the curative properties of cocaine (which he himself snorted like a suction pump), have been debunked. That includes sex abuse in childhood as the cause of all psychoses and hysteria – a demonstrable falsehood Freud later abandoned for the equally larcenous Oedipus complex.
Over a lifetime, I’ve met many people with psychological problems – in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone without at least some quirks. Why, some naysayers have suggested that even I may have a few.
Yet neither I nor anyone I’ve ever met has ever traced such problems back to the urgent desire to kill his Dad, mount his Mum and gouge his eyes out. Since my lifetime has been rather long, the sample is large enough to suggest that Freud’s pet theory belongs only in puerile jokes. (Such as the one about that Jewish woman saying: “Oedipus, Schmoedipus, as long as he loves his Mum…”)
What Marx was in economics and Darwin in biology, Freud was in psychiatry. Like them, he cheated his way to the status of a modern prophet.
Fraud falsified clinical evidence, lied about case studies, drove some patients to premature death or suicide with his quackery, smeared his opponents, published fake clinical papers – and squeezed every penny out of gullible rich patients, mostly women.
Those interested in the details of this scam should read Frederick Crews’s book Freud: The Making of an Illusion. No reader of that volume will ever again take Freud seriously.
However, while telling us all we need to know about Freud, and possibly even more than that, Mr Crews writes next to nothing about Freudianism as a social phenomenon. He obviously saw that as falling outside his remit, which is fair enough: a book must be judged on what’s in it, not what isn’t, and his is excellent.
However, though every age produces false prophets, only a few ever gain a massive following. What was it about Freud (or, for that matter, Marx and Darwin) that turned a megalomaniac, unscrupulous quack into a ‘climate of opinion’?
Here it’s important to point out the difference between real and false prophets. The former see the future; the latter cling to the present.
Old Testament seers prophesied the coming of Jesus Christ over 300 times, and those prophesies were counterintuitive: most had no link to contemporaneous events and beliefs. The prophets saw something no one else could see because that something didn’t yet exist.
False prophets are different: they’re nothing but astute salesmen with an uncanny knack for telling the customer what he wants to hear. They fill a hole in the market by enunciating the zeitgeist.
When Freud expertly let the zeitgeist speak through him, the hole was gaping. The West had lost the notion of absolute truth residing outside man – it had lost an objective frame of reference within which a person’s worth could be measured.
Man had moved from the periphery of God’s universe to the centre of his own. The Reformation had taught him that he could find his own way to God; the Enlightenment said he could definitely find his own way, but not necessarily to God because there was no such thing; Darwin had postulated that he was but another ape, although cleverer than most.
Man was now chained to the ground like Prometheus to his rock. Modern Man had lost infinity, both spatial and temporal – and he was told it was good riddance.
That’s what he wanted to hear, but the whole thing still made him slightly uncomfortable. He was proud of having ousted God, but something was missing. He was undeniably an ape, but such a clever one that he couldn’t reduce his whole life to scoffing bananas – his cleverness demanded a transcendent dimension.
That obviously could no longer be found outside himself; nothing could, for nothing outside himself, other than matter, could have possibly existed. The conclusion was natural, and as vulgar as modernity itself. Man could only find the transcendent in the transient: himself.
Hence Modern Man embarked on a never-ending exploration of himself: rather than soaring to eternal heights, he became a spelunker endlessly delving into the dark recesses of his own psyche. That produced a let-down: hoping to find an ersatz God inside himself, man found only himself there.
Left one on one with his own vulgarity and wickedness, he went off the rails. He wanted someone to tell him what on earth was going on, but there was no one to ask but himself, and he didn’t know.
That’s where Freud came in. Man, he explained, had nothing transcendent, but he had the next best thing: something inexplicable. But not to worry: old Sigmund will sort out all those little mysteries. Happiness all around.
Overnight the West was inundated with mountebanks encouraging spiritually deracinated dupes to embark on a lifelong spelunking expedition into their own petty selves. The charlatans were collectively charging billions for their chicanery, but then the penny dropped.
Psychoanalysis has turned out to be nothing but a gift that keeps on giving. Since it answered no real medical need, it could cure nothing. It could only use people as marks in a fixed game of cards in which the dealer had all the aces.
People began to realise that, while they were getting poorer, they weren’t getting better. Their constitutional right to happiness remained unclaimed and unclaimable. They couldn’t avoid sadness, pain or lousy moods. Above all, they couldn’t fill that emptiness inside.
But they knew that emptiness existed. If it couldn’t be filled psychiatrically, it had to be filled chemically. Out went the charlatans and, of all A-list countries, only France still takes psychoanalysis seriously.
Pushers, posing as doctors, stepped in and started flogging feel-good pills in volumes that could make Smarties manufacturers turn green with envy. Antidepressants began to do the job previously done by Freudian and other quacks.
Pills are the cobbles on the road leading from hedonism to decadence and from decadence to degeneracy. They don’t even pretend to create real transcendence – they’re happy faking it with naked cynicism.
One in 10 people in so-called developed countries are now taking antidepressants, and in Britain this obscenity is accelerating faster than anywhere else.
I’m not talking about people with genuine diseases, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder – they must get all the help they need. But most pill poppers suffer from existential and spiritual problems, not medical ones.
They demand their fix, exerting a downward pressure on our overworked GPs and effectively turning them into pushers. People see doctors not to be treated but to score – without breaking the law.
True, by demanding and getting their Prozac or whatever they don’t break any earthly laws. Those they do break are much more vital and less forgiving: no plea bargaining is allowed, and the verdict is always the same: life – meaningless, empty, addled life.