1893–1895–1897–1899: Or How Norman N. Holland Gave Game, Set, and Match to Frederick Crews

The situation of the present state of psychoanalysis and of the current reputation of Sigmund Freud is well documented and cogently (and patiently!) presented in Professor Crews’s “Reply to Holland.”(1) In my view, and in the opinion of several other Freud scholars, the continuing ability of Freudian rhetoric to deceive is even more dangerous and difficult to resolve than Crews allows.

And, alas, the kind of staged public jousting whereby Fred Crews will accept the publication for the Spring/Summer issue of The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine (vol. 9, no. 1) of “a commentary on both submissions [that of Holland and the reply of Crews] by the psychiatrist Peter Barglow” seems to be `loaded’ from the start.

Barglow is a psychiatrist of the Old School when it was thought a useful career-move in American medical schools, if you were specializing in psychiatry, to go into analysis and to become a certified psychoanalyst oneself. And then to conduct training analyses.(2) That Barglow is a personal friend of Holland and has just returned from the June conference on Art and Psychology at Arles in France where they both were, raises the suspicion (no doubt unworthy) that Crews may not receive an entirely “objective” commentary.

Some works are missing from Crews’s generally excellent bibliography and I need to refer to them in this article. They are, in alphabetical order: Jacques Bénesteau’s Mensonges freudiens: histoire d’une désinformation séculaire (Sprimont, Belgium: Mardaga, 2002); Max Scharnberg’s The Myth of Paradigm-Shift, or How to Lie with Methodology (Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Uppsala Studies in Education 20, 1984); Robert Wilcocks, Maelzel’s Chess Player: Sigmund Freud and the Rhetoric of Deceit (Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1994) and Mousetraps and the Moon: The Strange Ride of Sigmund Freud and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis (Lanham MD: Lexington Books, 2000).

Frederick Crews is careful to reply to the full text of Norman Holland’s paper, rather than to limit himself to the abbreviated version now available on Butterflies and Wheels. Crews begins “Although Norman Holland’s synopsis conveys the gist of `Psychoanalysis as Science,’ the devil is in the details.” In fact, Crews is being scrupulously fair here to Holland and his arguments are indeed closely related to Holland’s full original text. Crews is mistaken, however, if he really believes that “the devil is in the details.”

With Holland’s wretched piece, the details are insignificant and largely irrelevant. I will come to his “innocent” and misleading use of Fisher and Greenberg in a minute (and I will offer the devastating examination by Scharnberg as evidence). But let me begin with Holland’s last Freudian quotation. For in that quotation — as it is offered by Holland – lies the very essence of what is wrong with psychoanalysis-as-science. And it has nothing to do with sex (or even with Freud’s weird version of it), nor with science, nor with concepts of the mind. It has everything to do with lying. And you cannot build a science – of any kind – on LIES!

If, as Frank Cioffi pointed out over a quarter of a century ago, Freud was a liar,(3) then the problem of the significance of the power to deceive of psychoanalysis is resolved immediately. Snake-oil! And rub it in carefully. You suffer from hay-fever? Have no fear – psychoanalysis will resolve the hay-fever(4). And so on… Now, how does Norman N. Holland end his piece? With a priceless quotation from one of the most devious paragraphs that Freud ever drafted. The devil is not in the details, Professor Crews is being far too circumspect; the devil is right here in Holland’s deceived (and innocently deceptive) conclusion. I quote:

In Freud’s first published dream analysis, for example, he began by spelling out his associations (his data). In doing so, he indicated a variety of recurring themes. Finally, he concluded: “They could all be collected into a single group of ideas and labelled, as it were, concern about my own and other people’s health — professional conscientiousness” [26, p.320]. This is purely and simply holistic reasoning.

And that is precisely the kind of response that Freud was counting on, the intelligent, sympathetic and credulous offering of a heart laid bare by the Master’s magic with words.

This is where “his associations” or, as the brackets naïvely inform us, “his data,” take their place in the presentation of psychoanalysis as the one and only way to understand the human mind and the related by-products of dreaming. Now go back to that very strange title I have chosen for this paper: “1893–1895–1897–1899” – there is a problem here. Interestingly, it was a problem recognized over half a century ago by the faithful daughter, Anna Freud. When she was preparing the first edition of the collected correspondence of her father to the Berlin Otorhinolaryngologist (E.N.T. doctor as we say in England – Ear, Nose and Throat), Wilhelm Fliess,(5) Anna Freud dutifully removed (and/or censored) certain letters from her father which might cast doubt on his veracity. Could the founder of psychoanalysis and her father be a liar? Perish the thought! Or rather, remove the correspondence which might give rise to such sacrilegious thoughts. (Which implies, incidentally, that the disinformation invented by Sigmund in the cocaine-inspired years at the end of the 19th Century was thoughtfully – and knowingly, quite knowingly – continued by Anna Freud in the 20th Century.)(6)

This most famous of dreams – “The Dream of Irma’s Injection” – is indeed the first dream we encounter in Chapter 2 (after a preliminary chapter giving a brief history of dream investigation) of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. It was called by Freud himself Das Traummuster – “The Specimen Dream.” It is also a piece of contrived rhetorical deception devised by Freud probably during the autumn of the year in which his book was published (1899). My multi-dated title refers to the various dates that are involved in the text offered to the unsuspecting public by Sigmund Freud.(7)

Briefly, the dream reported as dreamed and analyzed on 23/24 July 1895 could not have contained the associational material reported by
Freud.(8) At that date his eldest daughter, Mathilde, had not suffered from diphtheria. According to the dream reports, Freud’s anxiety about her health relates to concerns of some two years previous (i.e., 1893). In April 1897, however, we find (now, thanks to Masson’s Harvard University Press publication of the uncensored correspondence with Wilhelm Fliess) that Mathilde did indeed suffer from a bout of diphtheria – and thanks to him we now know when (April 1897)! And it was precisely this letter (with several others) that Anna Freud chose to remove from her 1954 edition of the correspondence. The letter had nothing to say about psychoanalysis; but it did show clearly that her father was a liar in his professional invention. And lies have to be covered up by denial or censorship or disinformation.

It is extraordinary that in France of all places, a seriously-researched book on Freud should appear that would tear holes in the whole fabric of Freudian invention. The author of this excellent piece of work – Mensonges freudiens – is a clinical child psychologist at the University of Toulouse – Dr. Jacques Bénesteau. His book, and this is a splendid opportunity to congratulate the objectivity of la Société française d’histoire de médecine, was unanimously awarded the year’s prize for the best book on the history of medicine in France for 2003.

Bénesteau reveals to the public at large the multitude of deceptions and downright lies that were at the heart of the psychoanalytic enterprise – and also at the heart of the Jung version of “Analytic psychology.” It is no wonder – this is par for the course, alas – that Bénesteau had to run through the unappreciative hoops of at least sixteen Parisian publishers before he found intelligence and integrity in the Belgian publisher, Pierre Mardaga.

The last publisher to be presented to the North American public is that of the Swedish university of Uppsala. Dr. Max Scharnberg, who teaches in the Faculty of Education of the University of Uppsala, published in 1984 The Myth of Paradigm-Shift, or How to Lie with Methodology (Upsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Uppsala studies in Education, 20.). His book is a scorching indictment of the “authority” assumed in North America by Fisher and Greenberg (and their devoted followers). Scharnberg, who understands mathematics and symbolic logic better than I do, complains about the moral dilemma of some types of Freudianism which claim the sanctity (and hence the accuracy?) of “science” for psychoanalysis. Let me quote from Endnote 20 of Chapter 5 of my last Freud book:

See the penultimate paragraph of the preface to: Seymour Fisher and Roger P. Greenberg (1978), The Scientific Evaluation of Freud’s Theories and Therapy: A Book of Readings (New York: Basic Books). As their preface points out, this collection of papers is intended as a companion volume to their earlier (1977) The Scientific Credibility of Freud’s Theories and Therapies (New York: Basic Books). As a matter of topical interest, I should mention the careful assessment of Edward Erwin, which is unsparing in its critique of the pro-Freudian hopes of Fisher and Greenberg. See E. Erwin (1995) A Final Accounting: Philosophical and Empirical Issues in Freudian Psychology (Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press). Fisher and Greenberg seem (and have seemed for years) innocent of, or totally vacuous about, the hideous implications of their enterprise.

A moral, as well as scientific, critique was published in 1984 in Max Scharnberg’s The Myth of the Paradigm-Shift, Or How to Lie with Methodology. Having described the methodological slip from “real problem” (Pr) to “substitute problem” (Ps), Scharnberg writes:

Every psychoanalytic experiment with a positive outcome that I have come across during 24 years uses Ps’s that are invalid signs. And we must question the honesty of Fisher and Greenberg: The Scientific Credibility of Freud’s Theories and Therapy; they give lots of extremely false accounts of cited experiments. The worst instances of the faults that I shall describe below could easily have been avoided without any new knowledge. Better morals are much more important. (Scharnberg, 1984, p. 151)

That “honesty” had been questioned – or rather, denied – some fifty pages earlier in the introductory pages of his Chapter 4, “The Doctrine of the Substitute Problem,” where Scharnberg writes: “The only thing that is academic in Fisher and Greenberg’s book is the jargon. Everything else is swindle.” (quoted in Wilcocks, 2000, pp. 173-174)

And, indeed, as Scharnberg notes, “everything else is swindle.” It is with the “swindle” that we now have to deal (and please note, this has NOTHING to do with science). The mistake of that excellent philosopher of science, Adolf Grünbaum, was to have taken Sigmund Freud at his word. Grünbaum’s investigations of psychoanalysis have, as Frederick Crews has shown, revealed the intellectual disaster awaiting the noviciate. But Grünbaum’s critique is really one for those who might have been impressed by Freud’s rhetoric of persuasion; it is not a critique that has any significance for the more thoughtful.

Will it never end? This extraordinary waste of human potential? The great English medical scientist, Sir Peter Medawar, chairman for important years of the British Medical Research Council, and Nobel Prize winner for his contribution to medicine (in relation to his work on organ transplants), once wrote in a review-article for the New York Review of Books, “The opinion is gaining ground that doctrinaire psychoanalytic theory is the most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century…”(9) Sir Peter Medawar got it right! It is, or was, the “most stupendous intellectual confidence trick of the twentieth century”… Did it catch you? At an uncomfortable moment of your life? Well … there is help at hand, just read Molière’s splendid satire of the corruption of the “directeur de conscience” Tartuffe. Tartuffe was, in 17th-century Paris, what “The Shrink” became for many Americans after the Second World War. The French, of course, had their very own psychoanalytic Tartuffe in the ghastly presence of Jacques Lacan.

1. Butterflies and Wheels

2. This career pattern is less prevalent no in North America. Crews is correct in pointing out that nowadays many serious university departments of psychology no longer rely on Freud or on Freudians. Richard McNally at Harvard’s Department of Psychology told me this Spring that there were no longer any Freudians in his department – the last of them had long since emigrated to departments of literature!

3. See, for example, Frank Cioffi, “Was Freud a Liar?” The Listener 91 (1974), pp. 72-74. See also the many critical articles reprinted in Cioffi’s Freud and the Question of Pseudoscience. Chicago, IL: Open Court, 1998.

4. This is not a joke in poor taste. It is what is revealed in a reading of the correspondence between Freud and his infatuated neophyte Karl Abraham. (Hilda C. Abraham & Ernst L. Freud, eds. A Psycho-Analytic Dialogue: The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham, 1907-1926. Tr. Bernard Marsh and Hilda C. Abraham. London: Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis.)
See Abraham’s letter of August 9, 1912 (pp. 121-22) in which “looking for the psycho-sexual roots of the hay-fever” is the first step to its complete cure by psychoanalysis. There is a sense in which psychoanalysis was promoted rather like one of those all-purpose products that 19th-century con-men delighted in selling: it cleans your teeth, polishes your shoes, removes unwanted hair, and presses your suit. Norman Holland is still at this level of understanding.

5. This edition, which appeared in English in 1954 was entitled The Origins of Psycho-Analysis: Letters to Wilhelm Fliess, Drafts and Notes, 1887-1902, by Sigmund Freud. Edited by Marie Bonaparte, Anna Freud, and Ernst Kris; translated by Eric Mosbacher and James Strachey; introduction by Ernst Kris. New York: Basic Books, and London: Imago Publishing Company, 1954.

6. This is one of the carefully documented points made by Jacques Bénesteau in his Mensonges freudiens: Histoire d’une désinformation séculaire. The various forms of disinformation and misinformation and “re-writing” of its own history have made of the psychoanalytic movement the nearest thing medicine has to Stalinism and the Soviet version of its own (and everybody else’s) history.

7. For extensive discussion of this deception see Wilcocks (1994), Chapter 7, pp. 227-280. This material was the consequence of a thorough medical check via the University of Alberta’s Infectious Diseases Unit. It has since been confirmed by Mikkel Borch-Jacobsen who informed me that the Anna Freud archives at the Library of Congress (Washington) show clearly that in response to an Ernest Jones request for information about the health of the Freud children, Anna Freud replied that Mathilde and the others had no grave illnesses at the time which would correspond with the associations (“the data”) invented for the “Dream of Irma’s Injection.” I am pleased to note that the Australian clinical psychologist, Malcolm Macmillan, has accepted my discovery and refers to it positively in the revised MIT edition of Freud Evaluated: The Completed Arc (1997).

8. We have, in fact, a brief letter addressed by Freud to Fliess on the very morning of the day on which he claimed to have had the secrets of the dream revealed to him. Needless to say, there is not a word in this letter about resolving the secrets of dreams, nor indeed about the apparent monumental revelation of the previous night. See, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (ed.), The Complete Letters of Sigmund Freud to Wilhelm Fliess 1887–1904 Cambridge (Mass.), The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985, p. 134.
Fliess himself, by the way, must have been one of the first to have realized the fabrication involved in this dream. He wrote to Freud questioning the date reported by Freud. And Freud replied (Masson, 1985, letter of June 18, 1900, p. 419), with the blind confidence of genius, that that was the date in the book itself, Die Traumdeutung! “I have authenticated the date of July 24, 1895, however. The dream is dated the same way in the book, July 23-24, and I know that I analyzed the dream the following day.” (Masson, 1985, p. 419.)

9. See Sir Peter Medawar’s review of The Victim Is Always the Same by the neuro-surgeon I.S. Cooper. The title of Medawar’s article is “Victims of Psychiatry” and it originally appeared in the New York Review of Books, January 23, 1975, p.17. It was reprinted in the collection of essays and articles mischievously called Pluto’s Republic, Oxford University Press paperback, 1990.

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