On page 27, Rieff interprets religion in terms of therapy. Religion creates mechanisms for “therapeutic” control and remission: it is a mechanism for responding to and dolling out “instinct.” The distinctions between religions are largely uninteresting except in the efficacy of providing for a means of successful in providing for “continuity of mood.”
There really is no question concerning truth or falsity; there is no morally objective right: that is the analytic posture of Freud. What Freud has done is to strip out all of the accidents, the fungible elements and consider only the real effect of religion: what and how well it controls and expressions the instincts. Thus, “The analytic attitude is an alternative to all religious ones.” (29)
There is an interesting charting of the similarity and distinctive nature of therapy and religion:
Similarities: (1) the patient or adherent must be honest “in performance”. Gravity cares very little for my position; but for either religion or analysis to “work,” I must be honest in my presentation. As a corollary, I must be “receptive” for the process to work. In short, the process must be internalized to have effect.
The divergence in the ways in which the character can be transformed.
Rieff here makes an interesting observation: While Freud is often seen as revolutionary, he actually is not poised to create some new revolutionary culture. “Freud appears as a defender of high culture.” (29) In the remainder of the book, Rieff contrasts Freud which his disciples who set far more revolutionary goals.
Since Freud’s analysis works upon the character, the eventual effect is a work upon the culture. As such it is not set to remake the world at the level of official politics, but rather at the level of the “mind.”
Freud came about because the “inherited moral systems have failed us.” (30) Since the inherited systems no longer function at a cultural level, the world was ripe for Freud to provide some mechanisms to shore up the psyche and permit human beings to function.
“The religious question: How are we to be consoled for the misery of living?” (23) Christianity and Judaism did not seek to make us happy, but to console us in our misery (although not said, you will have heaven later). Freud did not promise happiness, either; rather, he simply sought “less misery”. (30)
As such, Freud birthed an as yet not fully developed “psychological man” who has a “durable sense of well-being”. (32) This man has the capacity to make some sense out of the chaos of his psyche and the world about him. Morality is “that which is conducive to increased activity.” (33)
Freud preserved “the very notion of tradition,” by preserving a mechanism for understanding what was taking place with humanity. The theologians will find Freud helpful, because they need – as Archbishop Temple said was needed, “a theology based on psychology.” (33)
Rieff proposes that Jung has provided that psychology upon which the theologians can begin to build.