200: The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud

by Gerard

200.19: Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. Translated by W.D. Robson-Scott. New York: Doubleday, 1962 [1927]. 102 pp.

To find a book about religion in its most general form to fit into DDC 200 is tough. They’re usually about Christianity only, or about comparative religion, or anything else about religion and the human condition. Sadly, Freud has to pick up the slack today.

Now, I’ve read some of Freud’s other work, and he can really lay on the crazy. But in The Future of an Illusion he takes to a whole new level. He starts off with a simple thought experiment on how civilization formed from nothing. The assumption is that certain members of a tribe become de facto leaders and coerced the rest to push the society along. This leads the laborers to view the leader as a father figure and become resentful. The logical conclusion is the classic Freudian family dynamic and power struggle but on a larger level.

THEN he posits that because people now have an identifiable place in the civilization they start to wonder about their place in the world and the universe. Early man apparently creates an overarching father figure to create a pseudo-relation with: this becomes God. Apparently fathers are to blame for everything.

THEN he urges to reader to push all this talk of religion aside because it’s just an illusion we’ve created to satisfy our own anger and inner conflict (hence the title). The last third of the book is just him congratulating himself for living in a progressive enough age where he can openly refute religion and becoming enlightened enough to share his new wisdom. Yeah, it really does read like that. He even creates an imaginary critic of the work and begins arguing his point with him.

All in all, it’s only 100 pages and can be knocked a couple of hours, but apparently the previous owner of my copy got upset and began scribbling notes in the margin questioning Freud himself. There’s a lot of highlighting and underlining and active responses all over the place. The marginalia in this book alone makes it worth the price.