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Connecting Scripture to Sigmund Freud to CS Lewis to John Piper

Last Fall, I took a class at the University of Florida titled "Freud and Philosophy." Basically, it was a comparison/contrast class of Sigmund Freud and Clive Staples Lewis. It was a fantastic thing to be graded upone reading "Mere Christianity" and "The Abolition of Man." However, we also had to write a final term paper. As THIS fall semester has begun, I have had less and less time to sit and tap my thoughts on the keyboard, hence, my blogging has seemingly ceased. So I decided to blog my paper in bits, and perhaps get some feeback from some of you that read this. (Also, since I am incapable of emailing it to Joe, he can read it this way!)

This is not the whole paper. Just a few paragraphs. I'll put a few paragraphs up every other day or so. The basic thesis of the paper is this. Sigmund Freud said that we are motivated solely by the pleasure principle, and that the greatest pleasure we seek is sex. I contend that CS Lewis (and Scripture) would not disagree with the first part of this statement-humans are motivated by the pleasure principle. However, the greatest pleasure is found in Christ. (It's kind of a feeble attempt to connect Scripture, Freud, Lewis, and of course, John Piper.)

So read, enjoy, think, and remember that I am no theologian, so be kind in your critiques!!

(Also, I begin with Freud. So this first post has little biblical truth to it, but it is rather a summary or sarcastic analyzation of Freud's theories.)

Sigmund Freud and Clive Staples Lewis represent two of the greatest minds of the last few centuries. Both of these intellectual giants published volumes of manuscripts on almost every subject one could possibly imagine. Each provides for his readers a different motivation for all of the basic desires-love, family, religion, death, and God. These are the base needs of each individual in the core of his humanity. More often then not they argued from opposite ends of the spectrum and seem to have been irreconcilably split. No where else is this more visible than when dealing with the concepts of happiness and the pleasure principle. On the surface, these men could not have been more diametrically opposed, but when one looks closely, it becomes obvious. Both Freud and Lewis agreed that we are motivated solely by our desire to find pleasure.

Freud states in Civilization and Discontent that the purpose and intent in a person's life is to seek after happiness and, that this happiness is equated with pleasure. This becomes one of Freud's most basic and universally known theories: the pleasure principle. It is the opposite of the reality principle and requires instant gratification; it is unconscious and pays no attention to consequences or reason or to the well-being of others. In Freud's model, this is also known as the id. This “pleasure principle… dominates the operation of the mental apparatus from the start.” Freud believes that all of our other desires and hang-ups can be traced back to either gratification or suppression of our desire for happiness and that it truly is the main focus in life.

If all people purely are seeking to pleasure themselves through sex, should we not all be much happier than we are? Should not life be a series of hookups and one night stands so that woman A and man B can find gratification of this primal urge? Freud believes that the reason for unhappiness and unfulfillment in life stems mostly from the standards that society has placed on sex. The sexual norms do not allow us to satisfy ourselves any time and any place. Therefore we are in an almost continual state of sexual frustration. Even when we are experiencing this pleasure, it is a very time limited thing and can only last for so long. Then we return to the unhappy state from whence we came. In addition, we can not experience this ultimate pleasure until we reach a certain pubescent age. Up till then we are taught that our sexual urges are wrong and something of which to be ashamed.

These two concepts-1) our lack of sexual experience until a "proper" age and 2) this idea of a proper age and proper sexual behavior- tie back to Freud's guilt complex. As we act on these impulses or deny these impulses, we are denying ourselves this basic universal pleasure. Therefore, we begin to experience guilt. It may be the noisy guilt which is characterized by an undeniable sense of wrongness with very little stimulation. It might be on a more subconscious level such as quiet guilt or the silent guilt. Either way, as we refuse to fulfill this pleasure seeking part of ourselves we develop more and more guilt. The irony of this is that as the repression increases, the guilt increases, and the conscious awareness of it this guilt increases. This causes us to dwell more intensely on the repressed desire and consequently, create more guilt.

This seems to point to happiness not being something that should be repressed. It makes no sense for humans to have a constant desire that can never be satiated. In the same way, sexual pleasure seems to not be the pinnacle for our satisfaction. If we have a never ending desire to be happy, why would the only fulfillment for that be something that lasts for mere minutes on the grand scale of things? Perhaps sex is ONE of the satisfying things we can experience, but it seems unlikely that it is truly the end all and be all for our deepest desires.

Good stuff Jen.

I like your thesis and you did a great job explainig Freud.

With that kind of insight you should pursue a degree in counseling.

it's my favorite romanski!

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