There are no breaking news at the moment

Critique of Waldo Frank- TOPICS: Freud, psychoanalysis, modernism. By Waldo Frank, ISSUE: Autumn 1934 Volume 10 # 4,PUBLISHED: March 31, 2010

It was 1928, Freud’s Essay, ‘Dostoevsky and Patricide’ appeared in 1928 as Case Study or Case History, which opened up floodgates of controversies and debates. Freud’s cautious and slightly hesitant identification of Dostoevsky’s mental illness, in all probabilities as ‘Hysterical Epilepsy’, created a storm. Waldo Frank’s article, ‘FreudPsychoanalysis, Modernism’, dedicated to identify – Historical Place of Sigmund Freud provides us the pivotal point of controversy. Its significant portion is covered by the invited confrontation between Freud’s ‘Structural or Economic Model and “Topographical Model”  and Dostoevsky’s Psychological Model’ drawn from ‘Notes of the Underground Man’. The storm continues to brew up in Quarters and Departments of History (which include Russian Slavic Historians), Psychology- Psychoanalysis, Neurology and Medical Writers. In 1970s E. H. Car, Slavic Historians and few Russian Literati who stood up in defense of Dostoevsky opened up frontal attacks to demolish Sigmund Freud. It continued in 1980s quite vigorously, and even after 2015, I came across series of Articles which dig out relevant issues.

The controversy centers around the claim that it was Dostoevsky who ought to be regarded as the founder of modern psychology.The proliferating controversies tend to camouflage and overshadow Freud’s evaluation, both appreciating Dostoevsky as well as the substantive criticism he makes, particularly of ‘Brothers Karamazov’. Controversies endanger the existence of Psychoanalysis as Science!

Today,Freud is not there but fortunately there are authors who deserve to be credited for being well acquainted with Freud’s works and the methodology and techniques Freud built painstakingly over decades to revolutionize the ‘Analyst- Patient’ relationships.They have also gained deeper insights into Dostoevsky’s works beginning from, the ‘Notes of the Underground Man’ to his ‘Brother’s Karamazov’.

Here is my attempt to summarize the Reviews of few of Dostoevsky’s works, particularly after his return from Siberian Exile (1849- 1854), the exile and imprisonment that transformed Dostoevsky from inside out! It transformed the literary, ‘Anti Tsarist’ rebellious radical intellectuals of the ‘Literary Movement’ till 1846,who ‘probed’ into his own psyche’ and articulated his mental sufferings into an all time great Novelist. He crumbled ‘psychically’ from ‘within’ in the wake of Tsarist repression but struggled to express his inexpressible mental illness and sufferings,which provided him the material and constituents to nearly ‘usher up’ his  literature  to the stature of modern psychology!

Here I intend to touch upon Dostoevsky’s ‘Characters’ only so far till they enable us to reach us Sigmund Freud’s identification of historical place of Dostoevsky. It all began when I came across an Article/ Essay by Waldo Frank, dedicated to Sigmund Freud, written way back in 1934. It’s a great piece of literature and of awesome aesthetic value. It was compelling and provocative and I could not resist myself from taking this as a starting point of this subject. This comprehensive and coherent essay is dedicated towards confronting Freudian world of ‘Unconscious’ with the world of Dostoevsky. Here we discover that his method is the precise opposite of Freud’s. At the end of his essay,‘Waldo’ emerges as Sigmund Freud’s critic and a well wisher as well but affectionately more inclined towards Dostoevsky’s Unconscious’!


The Article (Freudpsychoanalysismodernism)  (VQR Online- 1934)is dedicated to evaluation of  upsurge of Freudian Psychoanalysis as resultant or rather as culmination of Socio- Historical assault by Revolutionary Scientists of the 19th century, on crumbling retrograde- conservative Civilization, its Socio-Historical Structure. The Architects who carried out the assault, in his words, were, “In philosophy, there were Schopenhauer, Hegel, Spencer, Comte; in the novel, there were Balzac and Dostoevsky; in music, there were Beethoven, Mussorgsky, Wagner; in painting, there were Delacroix, Ingres, Cezanne; in the sciences, there were Marx and Darwin”. ‘Sigmund Freud’, whose work dates from the 1890s is the last of their line”. The world governed and created by GOD was now subjected to be governed by abstract ‘Laws’ of physics, biology, economics and now even the Human ‘psyche’. Waldo Frank further admits, “I am not qualified to judge the precise final values, as objective science, of the Freudian system. But of course, objective science has no final values”.

Waldo’s essay could be identified as an ‘aesthetic piece’ and deserves a brief introduction of Waldo Frank. He is known to us as the courageous, bold and Independent American Novelist, Historian, Political Activist and Literary Figure (1889 to 1973). He chose to end his association with the Communist Party of the USA subsequent to his visit to Leon Trotsky, the Co Leader- Architect of the Great Russian Revolution, during his Exile to Mexico in 1937. The occasion was the congress of the League of Revolutionary Artists and Writers in 1937 when Waldo Frank interviewed Leon Trotsky and when he latter stood by him at the cost of his association with the Communist Party. Waldo Frank will also be remembered as a Radical Anti-War campaigner in the wake of the Second World War.

We will focus on ‘Part Two’ and ‘Three’ that focus on confrontation between Dostoevsky’s and Freudian Unconscious. This article summarizes Freudian Psychic System and Occultism. Here he confronts Freudian world of ‘Unconscious’ with the world of Dostoevsky. The third section deals with the scientific value of Freud’s works & Freudian System, the Freudian Model of Psyche. The entire Article deals with Freud’s works as a great ‘Esthetic Body’.

In 1920, Freud proposed in his Essay (1920) ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle” and developed the Structural or Economic Model and “Topographical Model”. Waldo Frank’s Essay on Sigmund Freud is focused on comparison between Freud and Dostoevsky and takes us into their battle Ground- ‘The Unconscious’. Waldo Frank says, “Freud began as a physician, as one seeking to heal human ills. But he found, in the dark places of the human heart, a world as personal, tragic and universal as the world of Dostoevsky”(Self Analysis?). He continues, “The psychological system of Freud is, first of all, a great human drama. Here, in the arcane of the soul, are complex organisms; the super-ego, dwelling place of the fathers—conscience and tradition; the id, hinterland of the immense accumulations of instinct, habit, appetite; and between them the ego, where lives the individual will. These organisms are interacting units from whose clash rise devious characters with strange names: cathex, complex, sexurge, death-urge, neurosis, fixation or repression or sublimation of libido”.

Further, he finds a parallel between two creations, great historical masterpieces, “The Interpretation of Dreams,” (IOD) Freud’s pivotal work, in its revelation of a passionate individual nature may be compared with the “Confessions” of Rousseau (the father of the century), with Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground OR Volume one of Marx’s capital—”

Frank Waldo says, “The novelist explores the same Amazonian jungles of the unconscious, made manifest in their most morbid extremes.”The aim of both is to integrate principles that can transfigure chaos and truth. He further attempts to differentiate Freud’s and Dostoevsky’s Unconscious. “Dostoevsky follows the unconscious impulse of men to its irrational source, and he accepts this source as the sole reality, finding in it his God and his values”. He understands Dostoevsky”. For Dostoevsky, the contradictory world of ‘reason’ is ‘unreal’ and so also the Conscious world of western civilization is a ‘’Dream’, whereas Freud calls it as “lowest levels of the id”. Frank states, “The materials of Dostoevsky’s art, made plastic in the great organisms of his novels, are identical with the materials of Freud’s world made into the looser aesthetic form of a psychological system”.

Waldo Frank now brings out the deeper elemental difference between Freud & Dostovesky. As stated above, Dostoevsky’s ‘real’ is ‘mystic’ and the ‘occult’ in the regions of mind. For him the aims and method of both are the same. Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic therapeutic efforts are directed Objects of both “to strengthen the ego, to make it more independent of the super-ego, . . . to take over new portions of the id. Where id was, there ego shall be.” He notices that Freudian method is ‘inverse’ of Dostoevsky’s. He concludes Part Two with the statement, “Freud, like all the nineteenth-century rationalists, is an unconscious follower of the later, ethical Kant.Dostoevsky was a conscious, and hence, a more reasonable, mystic”. At the end of his essay, he emerges as Sigmund Freud’s critic and a well wisher but affectionately more inclined towards Dostoevsky!

Susan C. Fischman’s Reads-Dostoevsky’s Notes of the Underground Man

This Waldo Frank’s Dostovesky-Freud confrontation makes us curious and compels us to carry it forward. Out of the infinite number of commentaries on Dostoevesky’s ‘Notes from the Underground Man’ (1964),I met with couple of excellent articles, which readily carry it out in Freudian style! The Article by Susan C. Fischman, (The Department of Slavic Languages and Literature-Brown University& Dostovskey Studies- Volume 8, 1987) , in which she uses psychoanalysis as reading method to get into the depths of the ‘The Underground Man”, who begins by saying, ‘I am sick man’, ‘I am spiteful man’, who narrates his story from the ‘Mental Hole’ he has dug into for himself to hide!Underground is the ‘Hole of Mental Neurosis and depression’ and Ms. Susan says, “from the beginning, Dostoevsky’s ‘Underground Man’, demonstrates symptoms that would immediately attract the attention of ‘Freudian Analyst’and takes the role of a reader and Freudian ‘Psychoanalyst’ to interpret the narration and the verbal communication of the ‘Underground’ coming back and forth, from the depths of the Psyche. Her Article is a conversion of the narrative of the Underground Man addressed to the Reader into an imaginative dialoguewhile interpreting ‘the stream of thought processes and the imagery’ rushing out from the ‘Unconscious and surpassing the repression within the pre-conscious zone of the ‘Underground Man’.

She uses and identifies the Russian Philosopher and Spiritualist, Mikhail Bakhtin’s(Problems of Dostoevsky’s Art”-  the)  literary theory and presents the same as if, in a manner, Sigmund Freud would engage himself in dialogue with ‘the ‘Underground Man’ as his patient-may be Dostoevsky himself!It stands out as the most remarkable insights into ‘Dostoevsky’s Underground Man’.  Its Dostoevsky’s narrative of a case study of a retired Civil Servant is a masterpiece and articulated expression of a Patient relentlessly engaged in search of the ‘Primary Causes’ of his Mental-Physical illness. Dostoevsky goes on digging into Archaic and dialogues without an end!

It is claimed that Sigmund Freud used ‘Notes of the Underground Man’ to develop psychoanalytical theories about neurosis and depression.  This is far fetched and fictitious and we will return to this claim in due course here. However, one crucial quote from the ‘Notes—’will reveal that ‘Notes—-’ was an attempted ‘self search’ or discovery’,  a narrative and dialogue to reach into the depths of  one’s own illness; however,‘the poor mouse manages to mire itself in more ‘Mud’ as a result of its questions and doubt and a fatal pool of ‘sticky mud’ is formed’.It is a clear indication that he was unable to come out of it or as a Patient, could not identify the illness or draw any conclusion. We can draw an analogy from Indian mythology, an ancient Indian Epic, “MAHABHARATA”,which narrates the  woven story of ‘ABHIMANYU’, Arjuna’s son, who had learnt the art of breaking into the Chakravyuha (Labyrinth) but could not learn the technique of coming out of it or destroy it.When caught and surrounded by enemy warriors, he was clueless to come out, got trapped and KILLED!

Dostovesky’s ‘Underground Man’ experiences the same situation when he says, “I exercise myself in thought, and hence, within my mind, every primary cause immediately drags after itself another, still more primary, and so on to infinity. Such is the very essence of all consciousness and thought”. This dialogue introduces us to Dostoevesky’s method,a method of Patient’s probing into darkness and unknown-regions of ‘ Self’, penetration into deeper regions of psychic or mental  illness of the patient and finds himself clueless.

His Articulated narrative and the process have been described by Susan C. Fischman as an ‘Autonomous discourse or Pure Voice’.Between the Protagonist and (May be Dostoevsky himself), of the Reader the Psychoanalyst-Susan C. Fischman.  It is an absorbing account of discourse running into 167 pages.  She treats it as ‘patient’s engagement into series of ‘Imaginary’ analytic sessions with Imaginary Reader, ‘Analyst’. The dialogue in due course reaches into the depths of the disease and the neurotic tendencies. She imagines it to be Freud’s exploration through multiple layers of the patient’s psyche. It provides glimpses into or anticipates Psychoanalytic treatment. The symptoms exhibited by the ‘Underground Man’, the sick man who feels that Reader-Analyst does not understand ‘Damn about his sickness’. However,a reader of psychology can understand meanings of anger and hypersensitivity exhibited as symptoms of diseases.

Interestingly,she identifies Dostoevsky as methodological ‘wandering’ predecessor of Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis. As a reader and as a ‘psychoanalyst’, she understands ‘Underground— ‘ as ‘Patient’s’ attempted,  Ploys and Dodges as deliberate attempts to throttle the enquiry and offer resistance to frighten the analyst! She compares it with Freud’s impetus to patient attempts to progress the analytical efforts through talking cure. Next comes the stage thata Freudian Psychoanalyst will identify as a stage of seduction through ‘Bitter-Sweet’ words in which the ‘Underground Man’ addresses the reader come analyst! This ‘mouse cat’ game continues and then suddenly reveals, ‘Sorry Papa, ‘I will never do it again’. The repentance is further followed by outbursts, first directed ‘inwards’ and then towards ‘Papa, the reader’ the analyst, and then fury and endless attacks!

Here,a Freudian psychoanalyst can trace the fears to his ‘Childhood’ where the Protagonist held the Reader, the Doctor, as his enemy (Oedipus Complex)! Susan Fischman rightly identifies this as his carrying into adulthood or “enactment of unresolved feelings as symptom of specific type of resistance which he would call Transference”. Here, Fischman concludes that it recreates “psychically damaged human specimen, in the memory of ‘cry against Papa’, resides the Humanity of the ‘Underground Man’.  It projects the analogy of the mouse, as a ‘symbol’ as an image of the ‘Underground Man’ before the Reader-Analyst!The disgraced, humiliated ‘poor mouse’, with heightened consciousness, wishes to avenge against being disgraced, humiliated, subjected to injustice. The ‘Underground Man’ chooses to reveal both his pain and impotent rage against the powerful men of action and authority, like Papa, who spits and laughs at it!  The practical men who stand in the garbs of Judges and Dictators laugh lustily at it. This epileptic attack becomes a symptom equivalent of hysteria and is adapted and modified by it just as it is by the normal sexual process of discharge.

Susan’s Psychoanalytic reading of ‘Notes of the Underground Man’ revolves clearly  around

Father- Son relationships and conflict that passes through various phases.  It picturises  a discourse of a patient caught into the web of Neurosis. The discourse outlines regression into Patient’s childhood who gets entangled into it never to come out! The painful discourse of the patient struggles to  make his voice heard but who did not possess the tools to overpower his sickness nor could carry out the interpretation. He was unable to strengthen his ego, which can stand up to the repressive authority, nor could he train his ego, which remains prisoner of his ‘Self”.

Her conclusions can be summed up in her own words–“Notes from the Underground Man may thus be interpreted in an alternative light, grounding the ideological and the philosophical aspects in a more human and psychological side. This draws the Underground Man closer to one of Freud’s clinical cases of Neurotics,and his creator closer to Freud as his patient, is a tribute to the power of Dostoevesky’s insights into the human psyche. To Bhaktin’s equation for the Dostoeveskian protagonists, the sum total of consciousness and ‘self consciousness’, we must add the ‘Sub conscious’.


Freud’s ‘Dostoevsky And Patricide’ (1928), which evaluates Dostoevsky’s Works  and Life as part of his writings on Art and Literature became one of the most controversial articles. His identification of Dostoevsky’s mental disease as ‘Hysterical Epilepsy’ and his evaluation of Dostoevsky came under criticism,ranging from mild criticism to frontal attacks beginning from the 1930s, particularly from the 1970s till today from multiple Quarters. These came right from great literatis, Historians, psychologists, Medical experts, psychological writers and Slavic Russian Literature as well in defense of Dostoevsky.

Rosen Nathan, an American-Israeli physicist (noted for his study on the structure of the hydrogen atom and an associate of Albert Einstein), however,confronts the attack and the act of demolition of Freud coming from two directions, Slavic Scholars and Medical Experts, and  merits Freud with his achievements in “bringing together , to unify, illuminate, as no one has done before him, the most diverse strands in Dostoevsky’s life and works: the relation between Father and Son’, Dostoevsky’s Epilepsy, his political and religious views, his gambling and his obsession with crime and moral responsibility”.

He points out further that his ‘his knowledge of Dostoevsky’s life was based on whatever he could pick up in German till 1920’.  However, in fact, Freud was aware of the limitations of his sources. Freud has acknowledged the same very explicitly in his article. The man who spent his lifetime in studying the ‘Unconscious’, who identified and diagnosed Dostoevsky’s Epilepsy as ‘histerio-epilepsy’ or combination of hysteria and neurosis as psychological, and not ‘organic epilepsy’. For him, his Epileptic Seizures were ‘psychologically determined”, pathogenic and caused by severe repression’. Rosen Nathan summarizes and takes stocks of criticisms, aggressive attacks and slandering of Freud as below:

Joan Delaney Grossman, the Researcher in Slavic Languages, slams Freud. “Fictitious”, “Freud’s theory of Hysterical Epilepsy is without Foundations’. John Beyley informed the “New York Review of Books” that ‘Specialists in Russian literature do not believe that ‘His father was murdered by his Serfs and this was the cause of Dostoevsky’s Epilepsy’. Rosen Nathan confronts them for their ‘Dogmatic’ and parochial ‘Slavist’ orientation! The critics term  Freud’s ‘Dosteovsky and Patricide’ as a discredited but still an influential Essay’.Freud’s contentions was first questioned by E.H. Car, the British Historian (1930), and then by Medical Experts and Slavic Scholars like Joseph Frank, the well known biographer of Dostoevsky,who dismissed Freud’s case study with refutation of legend that Dostoevsky’s father was murdered by Serfs. In1975, Joseph Frank questioned biographical facts about his “Oedipal construct”1980 onwards, he was joined by several ‘specialists’ in literature as well who carried out a frontal attack on Freud. Nathan terms these assertions as having been complexly ignored and not been bothered about the evidence and facts sighted by Freud. All of them, including the ‘Specialists’,  in a single chorus have refuted Freud’s diagnosis of ‘Hystero- Epilepsy’ as wrong  to settle scores with Sigmund Freud.

Freud’s two major contentions, first that Dostoevsky’s epilepsy was a Product of Hysteria and Neurosis and second that his Hysteria originated through ‘repression’ of ‘uncontrollable’ ideas and images appearing as ‘Morbid (Ghoulish) Symptom’. Mr. Nathan engages himself in an attempt to rescue Freud’s insight into a symbolic character of Dostoevsky’s epilepsy arrived through Diagnosis and Facts of Dostoevsky’s life. Nathan Rosen illustrates one Full seizure witnessed by Mr. Nikolay Strakhov (Russian Philosopher and Critique) of Fyodor Michailovich Dostoevsky, who at the end fell unconscious, without any injury and tongue bite. He provides added details of Dostoevsky’sepileptic fits and seizures with Freud’s quote on “ecstasy and joy (Aura) experienced by Dostovesky,at the NEWS of his father’s death, which was followed by Screams, Depression, falland arousal of GUILT, as if committed a great crime. “Dostovesky’s whole life”, Freud says, was “Dominated by his two-fold attitude to father-CZAR Authority, ‘Submission’ on one hand and outrage rebellion on the other hand!

Secondly, Sigmund Freud who researched into Hysterical seizures of his patients (with Joseph Breuer) could not have made grave mistakes. Natahn Rosen admits the inadequate knowledge at Freud’s disposal and readings on Epilepsy research in the 1920s. Also, Freud’s admission of it regarding whether Organic epilepsy leads to mental deterioration in each case is clear!Gastaut was irritated when Freud on Dostovsky and Jean Pauln Sartre who identified Flauburt’s Epilepsy as Hysterical origin, who refuted the idea that Hysteria can be responsible for epilepsy’, Nathan reasserts and quotes William Gorden Lenox, to inform us that Dostovsky suffered two types of seizures, ‘tempoarary lobe epilepsy’ and ‘generalized epilepsy’. Despite set backs on mental deterioration, Dostovsly could write his greatest Novel-‘Brothers Karamozav’ during the last years of his life. Hence, ‘Force of creativity rises to overcome the force of destruction within him’, or ‘cognitive impairment’.

Kalyan B Bhattacharyya, Department of Neuromedicine, R. G. Kar Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India  makes a similar comment,  “In at least four of his novels namely, “The Possessed, Brothers Karamazov, The Insulted and the Injured and The Idiot,” Dostoevsky portrayed characters who suffered from epilepsy, Prince Myshkin in “The Idiot” being the most conspicuous case in point. [16] Some authors believe that while portraying these characters, Dostoevsky had two ideas in his mind, namely affirming that people suffering from epilepsy were no demons and expounding that they often had greater cognitive, philosophical, moral and religious accomplishments than others

Nathan goes on to offer an explanation, Epilepsy and Hysteria can co-oexist and can manifest as Hybrid phenomena. Also, various emotional disturbances in Dostoevsky’s life centering on Patricide instigated hysterical component of his seizures! Hence, Freud’s ‘Theory remains just as valid as the diagnosis of organic epilepsy’, which reconciles Freud and his critiques! We can assert that Rosesn Nathan’s  essay succeeds in rescuing Freud’s Insights.


For Fyodor Dostoevsky, epilepsy was a matter of his life and literature and creative activity. Sigmund Freud was able to grasp the close linkage between Dostovsky’s epilepsy and hysteria. His first Novel (Poor Folk) appeared in 1940s and he could join St. Petersburg’s Literary circle. His participation led to his arrest in 1949 and he was sent to Siberia for his participation in a group that discussed banned books critical of Tsar’. Freud’s close study of his works and life and the insights he gained into his creations and repressions he suffered are astonishing and incomparable.

Dostoevsky struggled throughout to interpret his disease, giving birth to characters who suffered from epilepsy. His ‘Underground Man’ is marked by his obsession with Father-Son relationships and exploration of his dreams! His admirers are quite right in naming him as the founder of ‘Modern Psychology’. However, his Siberian Exile and his release from it in 1854 and his compromise with ‘Tsarist’ social and ‘political repression’ reinforced his psychic repression’ inherited from his childhood. It is clearly visible in the trajectory of his latter works and on most of his ‘characters’ that he created in his Novels. The events that impacted his life , mother’s death (1837), running away of his father(     ) and his his release from Jail (1854) are played out in his literature. I have briefed the readers about Susan’s Psychoanalytic reading of ‘Notes of the Underground Man’, which clearly revolves around Father-Son relationships and conflict, passing through various phases, Symbolic representations of the same conflict.The core of the same theme that Dostoevsky stretches, explores and articulates through all his literary works till it reaches its zenith in Brothers Karamazov where in the characters it assumes, intensified expressions,whose main theme revolves around Father’s murder by Dmitri..

Freud says, “This other person, however, stands to the murdered man in the same filial relation as the hero, Dmitri; in this other person’s case the motive of sexual rivalry is openly admitted; he is a brother of the hero, and it is a remarkable fact that Dostoevsky has attributed to him his own illness, the alleged epilepsy, as though he were seeking to confess that the epileptic, the neurotic, in himself was a parricide” (page 247). “Freud’s analytical but reviling reveling of displaced guilt (‘knife that cuts both ways’ is a splendid piece of disguise, for we have only to reverse it in order to discover the deepest meaning of Dostoevsky’s view of things).“It is the matter of indifference, who actually committed the crime, psychology is only concerned to know who desired it emotionally and who welcomed it when it was done”.

Freud uses his highest skills in discovering that the ‘Oedipus complex’ is unmatchable and neither Slavic researchers nor Epilogists will be able to question it!Freud uncovers the deepest meanings and unfolding process of revealing the disguised, ‘Oedipal’ and ‘parricide’. Freud calls him‘extremely emotional’ and does not treat Dostoevsky as criminal. He identifies “Dostoevsky’s very strong destructive instinct, which might easily have made him a criminal, was in his actual life directed mainly against his own person (inward instead of outward) and thus found expression as masochism and sense of guilt”. “His neurosis is after all only a sign that the ego has not succeeded in making a synthesis, that in attempting to do so, it has forfeited its unity” (236- Dostoevsky and patricide”).  Further, he states, “Now it is highly probable that this so-called epilepsy was only a symptom of his neurosis and must accordingly be classified as hystero-epilepsy— that is, as severe hysteria. We cannot be completely certain on this point for two reasons—firstly, because the anamnestic data on Dostoevsky’s alleged epilepsy are defective and untrustworthy and secondly, because our understanding of pathological states combined with epilepti form attacks is imperfect (Freud page-237).

Sigmund Freud acknowledges, appreciates and values Dostoevsky’s creations, and particularly, we are sure that he considered Dostovesky’s writings as providing ‘Link between’ Oedipus Rex and his own works, IOD. He treated “Brothers Karamozov”(1980)  in his “Dostoevsky & Patricide” as a culmination of series of works from ‘Notes of — (1864) as if it was ‘self exploration’ or strivings of the Creative Artist… Brothers…. being the most articulate and of his ‘struggle from within’ by articulation of ‘inner self’ of each person and characters in his novels in the following words, “And it can scarcely be owing to chance that three of the masterpieces of the literature of all time—the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov—should all deal with the same subject, parricide. In all three, moreover, the motive for the deed, sexual rivalry for a woman, is laid bare”. Here, Freud links it to Epilepsy in Dostoevsky’s case!

Despite this,in his hard hitting comment he sates, “Nor was the final outcome of Dostoevsky’s moral strivings anything very glorious”. After the most violent struggles to reconcile the instinctual demands of the individual with the claims o f the community, he landed in the retrograde position of submission both to temporal and spiritual authority of veneration both for the Tsar and for the God of the Christians, and of a narrow Russian nationalism— a position which lesser minds have reached with smaller effort. This is the weak point in that great personality. Dostoevsky threw away the chance of becoming a teacher and liberator of humanity and made himself one with their Jailers. The future of human civilization will have little to thank him for. It seems probable that he was condemned to this failure by his neurosis. The greatness of his [178] intelligence and the strength of his love for humanity might have opened to him another, an apostolic, way of life(page 235).

Freud repeats the same (page We can safely say that Dostoevsky never got free from the feelings of guilt arising from his intention of murdering his father. They also determined his attitude in the two other spheres, in which the father-son relation is the decisive factor, his attitude towards the authority of the State and towards belief in God. In the first of these, he ended up with complete submission to his Little Father, the Tsar, who had once performed with him in reality the comedy of killing, which his attacks had so often represented in the play (page 245).

Waldo Frank on Sigmund Freud &Psychoanalytic Practice

Waldo Frank makes two strikingly strange comments regarding the Patient-Psychoanalyst relationship in the course of treatment as below.

A)    There is this difference, however. When a patient finds relief at a Catholic shrine, no one is the wiser: the cure has been worked in an invulnerable darkness. But when even the most useless society woman is analyzed by a Freudian, although she may not be cured, the analyst and science know something more about the human soul. Psychoanalysis as a therapy is justified, in so far as the physician is more important than the patient

B)     The patient is sick because he does not fit into the world as he finds it; the analyst who cures him helps him into this world, which means that he has set up, as the desired norm, the values of the world. And it may well be that the maladjusted neurotic of today is closer to the norm of healthy social transformation than the neurotic whom Freudian analysis has made “fit and content” within a society of false individualism and cultural decay.

Both these judgments are clearly in conflict with Psychoanalytic practice and Freudian discoveries and advances in revolutionizing the reciprocal relationship between the Analyst and the Patient, which forms the core of the Treatment.It can be broken down into Five Stages, however here we will take stock of three of them.

Analytical Treatment is a long drawn out process, progressing through number of sessions,as interaction between the Analyst and the Patient. The techniques can be summed up in multiple folds, first dealing with anterograde and retrograde amnesia, to reach up to biographic forgotten memories and images. Second,the ‘Free Association’ method, which replaced the earlier practice of Hypnosis. It consists of summing up free associations articulated during the analytic discourse of the patient and third,- Interpretation of slips and mistakes, which is significant, enabling the Analyst to reach into the deeper psychic processes. Fourth, Analysis and IOD-termed by Freud as ‘Royal Road to reach into depths of Unconscious, like the one with ‘IRMA’s Injection. Fifth, Analysis of ‘Symbols’ that are mostly ‘Sexual’. The entire process passes through layers of repression, resistances, transferences, counter transferences and regression.

In this process, the Psychoanalyst learns about the ‘soul’ of the patient, but above all, for the patient, it is a process of ‘Self Learning’ in which the Psychoanalyst is just a step ahead of the patient. The Psychoanalyst is in possession of techniques to overcome the resistances manifested in course of dialogue with the patient. It’s a process of interpretation, and above all, it’s a process aimed at strengthening the ego of the patient that is caught between the cross fire of the awakened urges and their fulfillment and fears sprouting from the ‘Depths of the Unconscious’emanating from different directions. It’s a process of training the Ego to detach itself from the gratifications and the process of achieving ‘self control’. In this sense, psychoanalysis as a theoretical practice in which ordinary consciousness tends to becomes ‘Scientific’ is a Dialectical Process!

Psychoanalysis as a therapy  and treatment of Neurosis (as opposed to electric shocks or Hydrotherapy) as Talking cure, initiated or rather discovered by Sigmund Freud in collaboration with his friend Dr. Joseph Breuer for the treatment of Hysterical Patients by grasping the meanings of “Hysterical Symptoms” was a great Scientific Breakthrough of all times in the Human Sciences!

It is necessary now to recall ‘Autobiographical Notes’ to answer Waldo Frank’s comments one by one. Freud’s pursuit for developing the most transparent relations between the ‘Analyst and the Patient’ and efforts to motivate and encourage the patient to work towards ‘self liberation’ was unending. We can recollect two major technical or methodological advances hat Psychoanalysis achieved for elevating or uplifting the Analyst-Patient relation to Greater and Greater Heights!

(A)The first illustration in Freud’s words is his ‘abandonment’ of Hypnotic and Electrotherapy altogether in view of their inability to unveil the persistent obscurity they leave’(methods followed during his association with Charcot). His disappointment with Hypnosis invoking patients to recall thelost memories and ‘forgotten events’ went through a number of trials. And then came the revolutionary moment,“My patients, I reflected, must in fact ‘know’ all the things which had hitherto only been made accessible to them in hypnosis; and assurances and encouragement on my part, assisted perhaps by the touch of my hand, would, I thought, have the power of forcing the forgotten facts and connections into consciousness. No doubt this seemed a more laborious process than putting the patients into hypnosis, but it might prove highly instructive”.

(B) Further methodological and therapeutic gains in making or setting the Patient “Free from Hypnotism” led to New discoveries. They were hard onesand painstaking. Freud says,”“Hypnosis had screened from view an interplay of forces which now came in sight and the understanding of which gave a solid foundation to my theory”. It amounted to increase in efforts of physician and “expenditure of force” which was “measure of a resistance on the part of the patient” and dynamics of interplay of forces. The catharsis process Freud went further and deeper to discover the hidden marvels of imagery and memories! “It was only necessary to translate into words what I myself had observed, and I was in possession of the theory of repression”. Freud states that, “The theory of repression became the cornerstone of our understanding of the neuroses”. It was a ‘Eureka’ moment for Freud. It was the measure of advancement on road to “self consciousness”.

(C)Freud’s major discovery was his comprehension of the ‘phenomena called ‘transference’, dialectics of ‘positive and negative’ transferences’. These reciprocal relations between the ‘Patient’ and the ‘Analyst’ remain the core of the analytical situation. The psychoanalyst regards it as essential to peruse the rationalist goal of treating the illness to provide impetus to the patient to ‘free’ himself from illness. Instead,the Patient makes concerted efforts to ‘please the analyst’ and win his/her applause to merely hoodwink the Analyst to hide the Symptoms of illness. Opposite of it is negative transference, patient ‘offers acute resistance’, where  the Analyst confronts, ‘Dementia praecox or Paranoia’. Freud calls it “Dynamics of Transference”.  Freud painstakingly developed the technique of inducing the patient to ‘perform piece of Psychical work of overcoming his transference resistances’. The Analyst makes the patient ‘conscious of his transference’ of re-experiencing the original, earliest ‘repressed’ object–relationship (Oedipal?) of his childhood. Thus, the persistent resistance, strongest weapon possessed by the Patient is Transformed into the best but the most difficult instrument of ‘Psychoanalytic Treatment’. Thus, contrary to what Waldo Frank assumes, the aim of the ‘psychoanalyst’ is not to make the Neurotic, “fit and content” within a society of false individualism and “cultural decay” but empower the patient’s ‘Ego’ to get equipped to ‘conquer’ the roots of his illness and achieve freedom from repression .

The Analyst has the advantage of and is equipped with understanding the laws of expressions of utterances, of symbolic language,  which is marked by compression-condensation, inversion, distortion etc. Freudian Psychoanalyst carries out the work of interpretation (which is exactly reversal of dream work). The same when laid bare before the Patient, the patient receives the further stimulus for exploration of his own ‘Self’. In certain sense, the process and the discourse tends to become a piece of ‘self analysis’, a process of enlightenment and self discovery for the patient. A process aimed at the patient achieving control over the ‘ID’ and ‘sexual and other urges’ and strengthening the Ego. In this sense, Waldo Frank’s apprehensions are no longer sustainable.The ‘therapeutic treatment’ is a process of learning!  It aims at bridging the yawning gap between the Analyst and the Patient. The Analyst plays the role of a Trainer and a Teacher. Freud as a neurologist is credited with providing the impetus to the patient for achieving ‘self-control’ through verbalization of imagery surging from the past and repressed in the unconscious.

‘Patricide in Freud’- Freud shows the way

In Interpretation of Dream (IOD), Freud makes a compelling communication to his readers,“If the Oedipus Rex is capable of moving a modern reader or playgoer no less powerfully than it moved the contemporary Greeks, the only possible explanation is that the effect of the Greek tragedy does not depend upon the conflict between fate and human will, but upon the peculiar nature of the material by which this conflict is revealed”.  Coming back to the subject matter, we can easily assess what a powerful impact Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov’ made on Freud when he echoes IOD, “And It can scarcely be owing to chance that three of the masterpieces of the literature of all time—the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles, Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov— should all deal with the same subject, parricide”.

Freud was fully in grasp of Hysterical expressions or manifestations in dreams, where in Interpretation of Dreams in the chapter, ‘Infantile experiences as source of Dreams’, his couple of dreams articulated Revenge or Rebellious expression against his father. The event on his fifth year, he and his three-year-old sister engaged in race to tear apart, page by page, the Colored book gifted by his father and got sharp scolding from Father. Another event  “One evening before going to sleep I disregarded the rules which modesty lays down and obeyed the calls of nature in my parents’ bedroom while they were present”.  Father’s sharp remarks, “The boy will come to nothing, this must have been a frightful blow to my ambition, for references to this scene, are still constantly recurring in my dreams”. In the final episode of his rebellious, ‘Count Thun Dream’ which ended on , —- platform, he sees an elderly man, “obviously my father, for the blindness in one eye signifies his one-sided glaucoma,[29] is now urinating before me as I once urinated before him. By means of the glaucoma, I remind my father of cocaine, which stood him in good stead during his operation, as though I had thereby fulfilled my promise. Besides, I make sport of him; since he is blind, I must hold the Urinal glass in front of him, and I delight in allusions to my knowledge of the theory of hysteria, of which I am proud.

Carl S. Schorske quotes Freud’s footnote, “And indeed the whole rebellious content of the dream, with its lèse majesté and its derision of the higher authorities, went back to rebellion against my father. A Prince is known as the father of his country; the father is the oldest, first, and for children the only authority, and from his autocratic power the other social authorities have developed in the course of the history of human civilization—except in so far as the ‘matriarchy’ calls for a scarcely ever felt a need to micturate when I have woken up early”. ‘Politics is reducible to the primal conflict between father and Son”. ‘Father replaces Count Thun” and “Politics is Neutralized by Counter Political psychology”. Unlike Dostoevsky, Freud identified this dream as ‘Oedipal’, a revengeful dream. The ‘Urinal’ symbol articulates reversal or ‘upside down’ relationship between“Father & Son”. Freud does not commit Patricide, he reveals his ‘Oedipus Complex’,  and in doing so,he overcomes it.

The great Historian Carl E. Schorske aptly identifies ‘Interpretation of Dream’ as the ‘most personal statement of his lifelong struggle, both outer and inner, against Austrian socio- political reality’ and at the same time ‘overcame it by devising an epoch, making interpretation of Human experience, in which politics can be reduced to an epiphenomenal manifestation of psychic forces. He also identifies it as a ‘counter political ingredient in the origins of psychoanalysis’!

This self-consciousness is achieved, for Freud, from the Oedipus complex is equivalent to what Hegel demonstrates in ‘Phenomenology’,  the slave’s escape from the dominating powers of the ‘Master”. By Interpreting his Dreams, he reveals it and masters it, shows light to the world, demonstrates way forward towards ‘liberation, becomes a Trainer and a Teacher for Humanity.


Waldo Frank’s attempt to show roots of Psychoanalysis and Freudian ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ in ‘Notes from the Underground Man’ will run into a great difficulty if we can refer to Freud’s “Biographical Notes”. They provide us few indications of evolution and revolution in Freud’s thoughtful journey towards Psychoanalysis and his approach and relationship with Psychology, Philosophy and Philosophers. Freud began his Studies in Medicine in the year 1876, well studied the ‘Somatic Processes’and passed out as Doctor of Medicine in 1881. Regarding his inheritance, Freud says, “I was always open to the ideas of G. T. Fechner and have followed the thinker upon many important points. The large extent to which psychoanalysis coincides with the philosophy of Schopenhauer–not only did he assert the dominance of the emotions and the supreme importance of sexuality, but he was even aware of the mechanism of repression”. Influence from the train of Philosophers such as Aristotle, Spinoza, Leibniz, Herbert, Arthur Schopenhauer is definitely important but indirect influence of Philosophers like Alfred North Whitehead, his ‘PROCESS PHILOSOPHY’ on Freud is significant. It is strange that Fechner rejected G.W. F. Hegel but Whitehead’s ‘Process Philosophy’ entered into the core of Sigmund Freud’s methodology, thinking and techniques. Hegel saw ‘World History’ as a possessive dialectical Unfolding,“the theories of Darwin … strongly attracted me, for they held out hopes of extraordinary advance in our understanding of the world.” As a result, “Freud took Darwinian biology as his foundation”.

Freud’s career as a practitioner went through measure revolution when he realized that “My patients, I reflected, must in fact ‘know’ all the things which had hitherto only been made accessible to them in hypnosis”. Sigmund Freud was ‘Set to free from Hypnotism”. His abandonment of it led to New Discoveries but was a hard one and painstaking. Freud says, “Hypnosis had screened from view of an interplay of forces which now came in sight and the understanding of which gave a solid foundation to my theory”. It amounted to increase in efforts of physician and ‘expenditure of force’, which was “measure of a resistance on the part of the patient” and dynamics of interplay of forces. The catharsis process, Freud went further and deeper to discover the hidden marvels of imagery and memories! “It was only necessary to translate into words what I myself had observed, and I was in possession of the theory of repression”. Freud states that, “The theory of repression became the cornerstone of our understanding of the neuroses”. It was a ‘Eureka’ moment for Freud. What philosophers like G.W. F Hegel contemplated for centuries and ages to understand now was ‘Practical’ and ‘real’.

Interpretation of Dreams provided Freud the passage to this ‘Repressed’ ideas, images and thought processes- “A Royal Road to Unconscious”. He pursued the path of enquiry into contradiction between ‘Waking Life’ and Dreams. Freud’s Quest to get to the bottom of the ‘Unconscious’, which has no access to ‘Consciousness’ except through ‘pre- conscious’ and to get answers, such as “whether the formation of dreams had a motive, under what conditions it took place, by what methods the dream-thoughts (which are invariably full of sense) become converted into the dream (which is often senseless), and others besides. I attempted to solve all of these problems in Interpretation of Dreams”.  IOD can thus be identified as ‘Groundwork’ of Psychoanalysis. The enquiry led him to get insights into ‘Neurotic Symptoms’, which are also constructed by “compromises between the demands of a repressed impulse and the resistance of a censoring force in the ego”. And which also stand “in need of Interpretation”,  Revelation that “infantile amnesia is for the most part overcome in connection with interpretation of dreams. In this respect dreams achieve a part of what was previously the task of hypnotism”.

It is astonishing to see the structure and internal dynamics of Interpretation of Dreams. It is fully focused on the ‘processes’ by and through which ‘Dreams Arise’.  Freud’s subject, matter is the ‘state of consciousness’ from which dreams with ‘Illogical’, senseless and contradictory character” arise!The discovery of “lack of logical relations” in dream processes  is Freud’s fundamental discovery. Freud states, “But the human spirit is led astray in dreams in its application of the laws of thought and of will through confusing one idea with another”. Thus, Hegelian ‘Dialectics’ is at work in Freudian ‘Psychoanalysis. Dreams give us ‘Occasional Glimpse into the depth and recesses of our nature (Human) to which we usually have no access in our waking state” (IOD). Freud even recalls Kant’s passages from Anthropologie (1798), “he declares that dreams seem to exist in order to show us our hidden natures and to reveal to us, not what we are, but what we might have been if we had been brought up differently”. Freud’s endeavor was to discover what is hidden beneath and he discovers ‘Repression’, which is responsible for hiding!

‘The Art of Interpretation’discovers “The unconscious impulse”, which “makes use of this nocturnal relaxation of repression in order to push its way into consciousness with the dream”. It’s a dialectical drive into the ‘Archaic’ to excavate the material beneath the “Manifest dream’, which is “no more than a distorted, abbreviated, and misunderstood translation, and for the most part, a translation into visual images”. (Freud’s Biographic Notes- P12). Freud elaborates treatment of the subject and discusses Laws of representations of the thought processes in Dreams by way of condensation, distortion, displacement or symbolic,etc. Freud defines “The Dream Work, to the process which, with the co-operation of the censorship, converts the latent thoughts into the manifest content of the dream”. Interpretation of Dreams is a process to “collect the dream-thoughts, which I have discovered and go on to reconstruct from them the process by which the dream was formed—in other words, to complete a dream-analysis by a dream‑synthesis” (Freud- IOD, p 326).Freud who begins with Teleological explanations offered by Literature on dreams (IOD p.102) completes his work by drawing out the regulating processes of Dreams in Unconscious, Preconscious and the Conscious. In dreams, Teleology is subsumed by Archeology, but at the same time, Interpretation enabled his Neurotic Patients to free themselves from the prisons of Archaic!

In recent times, Mr. John Mill has attempted to elaborate Freud and in his Process of Philosophy he summarizes the journey from ‘Unconscious to Conscious’ or the ‘Logic of the Soul’. He also became aware that the inversion of Hegelian dialectic,which he says is clearly visible in Freudian Psychoanalytical treatment.(Mills, Jon (2000) Dialectical Psychoanalysis).

With this, we have answered Waldo Frank’s dilemma and questions. His claims that “I have said that the least value of Freud’s work is its therapy” or his claim regarding, Patient –Psychoanalyst relationship, “the analyst who cures him helps him into this world, which means that he has set up, as the desired norm” both of these conclusions of Waldo Frank crumble!

Freud finally succeeded in making intelligible, the abnormal functions of the mind. In fact, Hegelian phenomenology becomes intelligible because of Psychoanalytical discoveries or rather Freud’s success in inverting the Hegelian Dialectic yields a method, which aims at liberation of ‘slave consciousness’ from ‘Master’s domination and repression’. ‘Psychology of Dream Processes’ chapter (IOD), Freud’s Epigraph to Interpretation of Dreams, Carl E. Schorske aptly brings out Sigmund Freud’s attempts to create an “epoch”, making interpretation of human experience in which politics could be reduced to an epiphenomenal manifestation of psychic forces. Freud’s determination to challenge the Viennese political and social order is reflected in his “citation on the title page of The Interpretation of Dreams from Virgil’s Aeneid: “Flectere si nequeo superos, Achronta movebo” (If I cannot bend the higher powers, I shall stir up hell). Freud’s message, I confirm was that the unconscious and its sexual forces would overcome the bourgeois political and social system, and the science of psychoanalysis would alone be able to Control it”.If we can recollect that Sigmund Freud had to leave his Homeland and settle in London till his death and his all sisters had to die in NAZI Concentration Camps, this would provide the significance of the Inscription!

With this, I have elucidated the contrast between Freudian ‘Unconscious’ and Dostoevsky’s.He provided us the opportunity to carry forward the confrontation. Waldo Frank interviewed Leon Trotsky and when he latter stood by him at the cost of his association with Communist Party. Waldo Frank will also be remembered as Radical Anti-War campaigner in the wake of Second World War.Had Waldo Frank takenrecourse to discovering the dynamics of Freudian Psychoanalysis, he would have reached out to G.W. F. Hegel and Karl Marx instead of Dostoevsky. Courageous Novelist like Waldo Frank could have entered into ranks of greats who reinvented the legacies of these greatest thinkers of all times, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx and G.W. F. Hegel. It would have paved the way for reinventing a movement amongst Intellectuals to integrate Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx, both of whom discovered the Passage to ‘Self Control’.

Anil Pundlik Gokhale is an Engineer by profession and have been a reader and student of Marxist and Freudian literature for last four decades.He has been a professional translator of medical and other literature from English to Marathi. As a non regular writer on political literature he has always been attempting to intigrate Psychology and Marxism.He has recently published books ‘Condensation And Condescension In Dreams And History: Essay – From Sigmund Freud To E P Thompson’ by Author House London. Psychoanalysis & A- Historical Story of GENGHIS KHAN, Author House- London

Comments are closed.