Freud vs. C.S.Lewis —- ” The Question of God” by Dr. Armand M. Nicholi Jr.

How do you feel about your life? Have you left a legacy that you are proud of? What has your life meant to those who know you? Are you ready to die at any moment? It could happen! Does what you say and your life line up in harmony? These are important questions we each face! They reoccur often as we approach  middle age and face our mortality. The choices we make determines our impact on others and how  we will be thought of after we’re gone. Two men, whose influence has lived far beyond their lifetimes, are Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. Their written works have changed the world and influenced many people. But what of the lives they lived?                            C.S. Lewis died on November 22, 1963. He did not fear death, nor would his impact on life end there! Years later he still influences many by his words and works and they will continue to influence us into eternity!  In his own words- “If we really believe what we say we believe—- if we really think that home is elsewhere  and that this life is a ‘wandering to find a home,’ why not look forward to the arrival?” C.S, Lewis wrote this and it was published in – “Letters to an American Lady”. Warren, his brother, noted that he knew the end was coming, and a week earlier had said,” I have done all that I was sent into the world to do, and I am ready to go.”  What a sense of peace with which to end our existence!  A friend and colleague, Richard W. Ladborough noted that , two weeks before his death, Lewis seemed be aware the end was near, but “Never was a man better prepared.” The end came quietly and his study at home He had lived a productive life and knew it!

Things ended far differently in Sigmund  Freud’s life! He never came to grips with a relationship with God! It was a topic he wrote about and contemplated often, but never accepted as real. Many of his papers talked about religion and attacked the reality of God, but even in the end, he still pondered God’s reality and His effect on our lives. On the day preceding his death, he read the “The Fatal Skin” by Balzac. It is the story of brilliant man, Raphael, makes a pact with the devil. As each wish for fame and fortune is granted his skin shrinks. until it crushes him. In the end Raphael cries out as he dies— ” It is all over with me. It is the finger of God! I shall die.”  This story as well as Faust seem to have meant something to Freud. He quoted Faust often. Perhaps, Freud recognized that he had sold out his life for fame and riches!  In his seventies, Freud had written ” Civilization and Its Discontents”.  In it he had said: ” What good to us is a long life if it is difficult and barren of joys, and if it is so full of misery that we can only welcome death as a deliverer?” Death, for much of his life, had become an obsession. As early as in his 30’s, he’d thought about its it! Now, as he approached it he took the doctors hand and said: ” You promised me then not to forsake me when my time comes. Now it’s nothing but torture and makes no sense anymore.” With that comment he requested the doctor to perform euthanasia. He died alone and hopeless!

The choice is given to each of us— how do we want to live this life? How will you face death?  Do we want to feel like we have done all we could in our life, or end it in dispair? C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud  began their lives and careers with similar worldviews. Both men had rough childhoods, and rejected God at an early age.

C.S.Lewis was born in Ireland to Albert and Florence Lewis. His father had a serious, stern,  unpredictable nature, while his mom was more cheerful and  well-balanced. He loved his mom deeply, and she provided a buffer to her husband’s strictness. Both parents were highly intelligent and educated. They attended Lewis’s grandfather’s church. Life was very comfortable for a young boy.This life changed drastically when Lewis was nine. His grandfather died, then his mother became very sick. Soon after she had an operation and died. Albert Lewis  mentally collapsed, and could not handle the tragedy. He felt overwhelmed without his wife ,and with being a single parent with two young boys. This fear persuaded him to sent them both to boarding schools in England. The upheavel devastated Lewis. He hated the boarding school. Run by a “irrational and unpredictable”  headmaster, “Oldie” whipped his students with a cane and was known for cruelty. He did all this while being an ordained clergyman. This added to Lewis’s questioning the reality of God. After all, God had not answered his prayer to save his mom! The school closed up, and he was sent to another boarding school. There he found a surrogate mother, Miss Cowie, the school matron, who shared her unbelief with him. He experienced great loneliness, so his father decided to have him come home to be tutored. The ” Great Knock”, William T. Kirkpatrick, had been his father’s headmaster. He taught Lewis to think critically, and logically, to use his creative talents. He, also, fostered Lewis’s deepening atheism. These beliefs followed him as he set off to University College. From there he was drafted into battle,  but came back to finish his degreeafter the war.  Later, Lewis went on to embrace  Christianity as described in “Surprised by Joy”.

Sigmund Freud never embraced Christianity, yet, it was something he considered. He was an intelligent and questioning child. He was born to Amalia and Jacob Freud. He, like Lewis, was not close to his father, and was embarassed by the weaknesses he saw in his father. He rejected his father’s Judaism. At two, a younger brother had died. He was cared for by a nanny who became a surrogate mother, but was let go after two and a half years. She had been a strong Catholic who had instilled confidence and a basic knowledge of God. Even into adulthood, he would think about her and what she had taught him. After this,  the family moved from Freiberg to Leipzig, then to Vienna. These changes created an unsettling in the young Freud’s life. He retreated into his studies and later his work. He sought happiness in his scientific research and writing. Once he wrote:” The bad part of it, especially for me, lies in the fact that science of all things seems to demand the existence if God….” He rejected these conclusions and withdrew more into his own world of science. He fought the evidence he’d  seen.  He seems to forever fight his own heart and the spiritual world around him. He became a stanch atheist.  Perhaps that is why he seemed to build a wall around himself, and tossed away anyone who differed with him. Freud never found total peace! It was noticed that he felt a sense of emptiness that was never filled.

Although, both men had tough childhoods, and went on to influence the world, their deaths have much to teach us. How we want to be remembered is within our grasp!  Do we want to influence others in a positive way? Do we want to give hope to others, and to encourage people to seek God? God says if we seek Him, He will be found. people need to hear this message! This knowledge is a treasure beyond measure in this world and the next! C.S. Lewis went on to help others find peace and fulfillment with God through a relationship with the Lord! We can follow in his footsteps! Or, we can be like Freud- he left this world full of doubts, and passed those search for meaning on to many of his followers. The choice of paths is left to each of us!!!!!