Sigmund Freud3 min read

There is a saying of Swami Rama Tirtha to the effect that the scientist pursuing truth in his laboratory was as much a saint as the formal adherent of one of the great religions who put his faith into practice. Freud’s passion for truth was indeed striking ; early poverty and disappointment, and the later opposition and neglect which he experienced, only served to add fire to it. And this passion for truth went hand in hand with a nobility of character and breadth of learning which assured an ultimate hearing for his thesis as soon as the immediate self-defensive prejudices of his audience had been overcome. His biographer Ernest Jones writes : “ In Freud’s character there were two outstanding features : one was an amazing intellectual courage that could face the most unwelcome facts—and in his discoveries he encountered many. The other was an absolute integrity of mind and love of truth that brooked no compromise in his devotion to it. His own rigid standards of probity were manifest both in his work and in his personal integrity. . . . All in all, Freud’s personality well matched the greatness of his achievements.”

The student of Yoga will find much that is of interest in Freud’s writings but it cannot be said that he will discover anything which goes beyond what is contained in the Sutras of Patanjali and other classics of Yoga—in fact, rather the contrary. As Jung has owned in his book Modern Man in Search of a Soul “ Psycho-analysis itself and the lines of thought to which it gives rise—surely a distinctive Western development—are only a beginner’s attempt compared to what is an immemorial act in the East ”. The Masters of Yoga had a deeper insight into and have given a more complete account of the subconscious drives (yasana) than is found in the Freudian psychology, and they have made a practical contribution in showing how the “ unconscious ” can be transformed from a capricious master into a useful servant if the correct disciplines are observed.

In a recent scholarly work, Professor Mircea Eliade compares the system of Yoga with modern psychoanalysis and concludes that such a comparison, with certain reservations, “ is altogether to the advantage of Yoga ”. He goes on to say that “ the psychological and parapsychological experience of the East in general and of the Yoga in particular being incontestably wider and more organised than the experience on which Western theories about the structure of the psyche are built, it is probable that, on this point as well, the Yoga is right, and that the subconscious—however paradoxical it may seem—can be known, and mastered and overcome ”.

In paying unstinted homage to Freud and his work, it is therefore well at the same time to remember that those who wish to study the workings of the mind and the methods of mind-control can still do no better than to go to the Seers of the Himalayas and to the classics of Yoga.