“Freud is Not Dead” reads the March 27th cover story of Newsweek. Actually, I don’t want to contemplate whether Freud’s thinking is dead or alive, in or out. What I’d like to behold with you is that couch, the couch, and the antiquities that surround it––as pictured next to Newsweek’s table of contents. Freud had a passion for sacred symbols, religious artifacts and relics with spiritual significance––even though he was an intellectual, nonobservant Jew who broke with Carl Jung over religious and paranormal differences; Freud was the more secular of the two.

Let’s reflect upon the following description of the artwork and artifacts that Freud kept beside him, from antiquities collector Stephen Beiner. I’m captivated by the multi-faith mix.

Freud’s antiquities collection has no single unifying theme; rather it is the culmination of a wide-ranging curiosity and an omnivorous mind. He owned Greek vessels and funerary reliefs, fragments of Pompeian wall paintings, Egyptian sarcophagus lids and engraved stelae, and Burmese Buddhas. A fifth century BCE South Italian winged Sphinx sat in a cabinet behind Freud’s desk… Freud’s collection was the spoils of an armchair traveler, obtained from archeologists and antiquity dealers as he continued his lifelong expedition into the human psyche and man’s ancient past. As Freud’s patients relaxed on his famous couch, freely associating, they were watched over by exotic remnants of lost worlds. A plaster cast of a Roman bas relief known as the Gravdiva (the original now hangs in the Vatican) depicting the daughter of the mythical king of Attica as a young woman forever caught in mid-stride, hung over Freud’s couch, together with a 19th century colored print depicting the Egyptian temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel. One patient remarked that ‘there was always a feeling of sacred peace and quiet’ in Freud’s consulting room.

In such a spot, on such a couch, wouldn’t you tell the old man everything on your mind (and beyond it), detailing every face, voice, cloud, landscape? A friend who spent a long time (and a lot of money) in heavy-duty analysis once told me that when you cry big tears reclined on a couch like this, the water runs down your cheeks and accumulates in your ears. Can’t you imagine standing up after a long Freudian session, feeling water-logged, having submerged yourself in, and then risen above, the shiny, sacred pool of your own memory?

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