Psychology Of Religion: Freud Museum, Hampstead, London

I’m currently researching my third ARKANE novel, which will either be called Exodus or Pharaoh, I’m still oscillating! Essentially it is about the search for the Ark of the Covenant, but of course I have to bring in a thread of psychology as it is my abiding fascination.

Sigmund Freud’s desk, complete with ancient deities

In this book, one of the influences is Sigmund Freud’s final work ‘Moses and Monotheism’, written in London in the final year of his life after being exiled from Vienna in the wake of the Nazi invasion. As a self-proclaimed ‘godless Jew’ he spent his life avoiding his own faith in many ways but returned to it in the final years, trying to explain anti-Semitism in his own way, as well as investigating the origins of Judaism.

The book claims Moses was an Egyptian, which is not such a far-fetched idea, but also that Moses was murdered in the desert by the Hebrews and that the guilt of the murder of the father figure has stayed with Judaism ever since. It’s a complicated book but a fascinating one and in fact, many of the objects in Freud’s study link him with ancient Egypt, which I will be exploring further in the book.

Yesterday I visited the house, now museum, he lived in with his family and where Anna Freud continued to practice after his death. It is on a suburban street in Hampstead, a normal brick house of reasonable size but certainly not as grand as you might expect from the man who cast such a long shadow with his writing and influence.

His study is that of an archaeologist, not a medical doctor. It is crammed with artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome as well as tools from other cultures. His desk (shown above) has two rows of ancient Gods with barely any room left for writing. Of particular note is the white marble statue of the Egyptian god Thoth in his baboon incarnation. Thoth was the god of writing, of

Me at the Freud Museum, February 2012

wisdom, science and was also a key part of the judgment of the dead. Also on the desk is a modern metal porcupine which is from America, from the trip to Clark University which those of you who have read Pentecost will know all about! I was quite thrilled to see it there – sometimes fiction moves into fact and vice versa!

Also in the study are two prints which will most likely feature in my novel – one a copy of Rembrandt’s Moses holding the tablets of the Law, a black and white cross-hatched image that demonstrates Freud’s interest in Moses at this point in his life. The other is a night scene of Abu Simbel, a massive rock tomb and temple in Southern Egypt which I have visited and remains a deeply resonant place for me. The print is fascinating as there is a light coming from inside the long abandoned tomb – what’s going on in there?

You can find out about the Freud Museum here, or watch the video below for a little look inside. If you’re in London and you fancy a slightly different kind of tourist experience, get off the beaten track and head to Hampstead.

 

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