Moses and Monotheism


So, I’ve almost completed today Freud’s Moses and Monotheism. Man, it is weird. It’s especially odd given the background of when he wrote during his flight from Austria to England during WWII. I don’t think I really have a full post in line yet. But there’s one quote I wanted to post and offer some brief reflections

“Over and over again they (the Jews) heard the reproach ‘You killed our God’. And this reproach is true, if rightly interpreted. It says in reference to the history of religion: ‘You won’t admit that you murdered God’ (the archetype of God, the primeval Father, the reincarnation). Something should be added-namely, ‘It is true, we did the same thing, but we admitted it, and since then we have been purified’. (114-115)

I’m reminded of a parallel observation Zizek makes when analyzing the story of Job in the Puppet and the Dwarf. He makes the observation that at the end of the story with God’s final appearance what comes to the surface is not God’s power but utter impotence. This is best illustrated by God’s anxious boasting to prove his omnipotence by listing of all the massive beasts he’s created. Here’s the quote:

“And it is in the context of this assertion of the meaninglessness of Job’s suffering that we should insist on the parallel between Job and Christ, on Job’s suffering announcing the Way of the Cross:Christ’s suffering is also meaningless, not an act of meaningful exchange. The difference , of course, is that, in the case of Christ, the gap that separates the suffering, desperate man (Job) from God is transposed into God Himself, as His own radical splitting or, rather, self-abandonment. This means that we should risk a much more radical reading of Christ’s “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” than the usual one: since we are dealing here not with the gap between man and God, but with the split in God Himself, the solution cannot be for God to (re)appear in all His majesty, revealing to Christ the deeper meaning of his suffering (that he was the Innocent sacrificed to redeem humanity).Christ’s “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” is not a complaint to the omnipotent capricious God-Father whose ways are indecipherable to us, mortal humans, but a complaint that hints at an impotent God: it is rather like a child who, having believed in his father’s powerfulness, discovers with horror that his father cannot help him…In short, with this “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?,” it is God-the-Father who, in effect, dies, revealing His utter impotence, and thereupon rises from the dead in the guise of the Holy Spirit. (125-126)

“Why does Job keep his silence after the boastful appearance of God?..What then if this is was what Job perceived, and what kept him silent: he remained silent neither because he was crushed by God’s overwhelming presence, nor because he wanted thereby to indicate his continuous resistance, that is, the face that God avoided answer Job’s question, but because, in a gesture of silent solidarity, he perceived the divine impotence. God is neither just nor unjust, simply impotent.” (127)

“The secret to which the Jews remain faithful is the horror of divine impotence-and it is this secret that is revealed in Christianity This is why Christianity could only occur after Judaism: it reveals the horror first confronted by the Jews.” (129)

Interesting parallels between the weakness and death of God as discussed by Zizek and Freud. Zizek’s observation while less mythological than Freud’s are clearly just as fantastically theological.


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