Tom McGrath – The Illusion of a Future – Freud’s Anxiety and Religion

THE LETTER 06 (Spring 1996) pages 79-90

From the dawning of consciousness either collectively or individually, the human subject is faced with wonder, and the response that is evoked is the desire to know, the desire to understand, the Eros of the Mind. The Eros of the Mind expresses itself continually -apparently irrepressibly -in the quest(ions) -the endless questions of the child, the historical and contemporary questions of human subjects about meaning and truth, and beauty and love, and life itself.

One can understand religion in its most general sense as being an hypothetical answer to that quest of the subject. Essential to the notion of question-or quest-is the fact and the experience of limit, of gap, of lack, of what there is not, and by implication of what is anticipated, of what might be, what could be or what should be. In every case the what-is-not-yet, is an indication of a lack, or a gap, or an absence, or a privation, or one might say a pain, and the pain is evoked by the not knowing what it is all about, or not knowing where it is all going, or not knowing what is the point of my life-each in different ways formulates, or is the product of, a lack of meaning. In the absence of that meaning, in the fact of that gap, the human subject has shown enormous ingenuity in inventing or constructing illusions or systems for himself/herself that enables the gap to be bridged or to allow him or her to overlook it, or to ignore it, or to deny it. The exaggerated claims of humanistic science amount to a crude denial of what it, that is science, itself can’t explain in its own terms.

In some fundamental sense the primary and most basic gap is what is represented by death itself-nothing short of or less than the termination of all life, at least from the point of view of the ego, or perhaps one could say the self. There is no more fundamental gap, or lack, or absence, or privation than the imaginary state of not-being at all. Now if religion is an hypothetical answer to the question thrown up by death, and if the lack implicit in that as well as the anxiety surrounding it is so fundamental, a denial of death will…

Comments are closed.