Dialectical Spiritualism: Sigmund Freud


Conversations wtih HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, excerpted from  Dialectical Spiritualism: A Vedic View of Western Philosophy.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1934)

Syamasundara dasa: Freud saw a conflict between the primal self, which he called the id, and the ethical self, the ego. It is the id that attempts to gratify all needs, and its basic motivating force is the libido, the sexual instinct. When the id comes in contact with the senses, the ego is formed. The superego is a modified part of the ego, which is formed through experiences related to one's parents. The superego is characterized by the feelings of conscience, and it is the principal repressive factor in the ego's striving to curb the primitive, sex-motivated, lawless tendencies of the id.

Srila Prabhupada: We also agree that everyone has a sexual appetite, and it is stated in sastras that sex is the principal bond to the material world. Actually, everyone has a tendency not only for sex, but for intoxication and meat eating also. These tendencies are inherent in the living entity. According to the sastras, we are allowed sexual intercourse in marriage, but we are prohibited from having any other sex. Krsna says, dharmaviruddho bhutesu kamosmi. "I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles." (Bg. 7.11) This means that sex life has to be regulated. Of course, people have a perverted tendency to have sex against the Vedic injunctions. The Vedas give regulations for all undesirable activities, not only sex, but meat eating and intoxication as well.

The idea is to restrict these anarthas, these unwanted things, so that the living entity may eventually be freed of them. In the conditioned state, everyone creates a false ego, thinking, "I am American, I am Hindu, I am Christian, Moslem, Russian, I am a human being, I am this body, I am this and that." This is false ego. Superior ego says, "I am Brahman. I am the eternal servant of Krsna." If we understand the self in this way, false ego automatically vanishes. Our senses are gross, but they are controlled by the mind. The mind is part of the subtle body, and the mind in turn is controlled by the intelligence. The intelligence is controlled by the ego, and if this ego is false, the entire structure is false. False ego thinks, "I am this body." This is false identification. When the ego is thus deluded, everything subordinate to it is also illusioned because everything else is standing on a false platform. Therefore the Vedas advise us to come to the platform of knowledge, and this is called brahmajnana. As Bhagavad-gita states:

brahma-bhutah prasannatma 
na socati na kahksati 
samah sarvesu bhutesu 
mad-bhaktim labhate param

"One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state, he attains pure devotional service unto Me." (Bg. 18. 54) When we come to the knowledge that we are not the body but pure spirit soul, we immediately become happy. All the neuroses and problems that Freud is trying to cure are due to false ego. When we understand our actual position, the blazing fire of material existence is immediately extinguished. Freud is describing this blazing fire, and he is trying to treat people within this fire. But how can a person be happy when there is fire all about? It is the fire itself that must be extinguished, or the person himself must be removed from the fire. Then there will be happiness.

I recall some years ago in India, when a criminal was pleading insanity to a murder charge, a psychiatrist was called to judge whether this person was sane during the time of the murder. The psychiatrist said, "I have examined many people, and I have concluded that more or less, everyone is insane. If his innocence depends upon his sanity, then I would say that he should be excused, but as far as I know, everyone is more or less insane." This is also our conclusion. Whoever is infected with this material nature is more or less insane. When the living entity takes on the material body, he must be crazy. Therefore everyone is speaking in different ways.

Syamasundara dasa: Freud believed that painful or traumatic experiences, often repressed by forgetfulness, lie deep in our subconscious. By recalling them, we may be able to overcome the neuroses that they inflict.

Srila Prabhupada: Our process is different. When you give a man a better thing, he will forget inferior things.

visaya vinivartante 
niraharasya dehinah 
rasa-varjam raso'py asya 
pararh drstva nivartate

"The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness. " (Bg. 2.59) Fear is created when we are not in Krsna consciousness. This is a characteristic of the conditioned soul. As soon as we become Krsna conscious, our fears and anxieties automatically vanish.

narayana-parah sarve 
na kutascana bibhyati 
svargapavar ga- narakesv 
api tulyartha-darsinah

"Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation, and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord." (Bhag. 6. 17.28) When we are God conscious, we don't fear anything. Although Prahlada Maharaja's demonic father threatened him with death and put him in all kinds of frightful circumstances, Prahlada remained quiet and peaceful. Indeed, his father asked him, "Prahlada, how is it that you are so proud and fearless when I am trying to chastise you?" Prahlada replied, "The person who gives you your power is the same person who is protecting me." Forgetfulness of painful experiences is in itself artificial. People forget because they are not properly trained. There is no usefulness in forgetting painful experiences. When we are Krsna conscious, we are not afraid to remember them. We actually thank Krsna, and say, "Krsna, You are so kind that You have saved me from so many frightful situations. Now I am sure that I am pure and have my safety in You." A Krsna conscious man is not frightened by any of his past experiences. Rather, he laughs at them, thinking, "What a fool I was to have been afraid of all these things!"

Syamasundara dasa: Freud did not believe that forgetfulness is artificial. He felt that it is a natural instinct to forget painful experiences.

Srila Prabhupada: Well, that is so. For instance, when you were in the womb of your mother, you were in a very, very painful situation. Now you have forgotten that experience, and that forgetfulness is certainly natural. It is a fact that you were confined to a womb, but you cannot remember this. When you think about it, you can understand what a horrible situation that was. However, the sastras say that even though you have forgotten this, you have not escaped the situation. You are waiting for a similar painful experience.