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Monday, September 14, 2015

SIGMUND FREUD VERSUS C.S. LEWIS: IS THERE A GOD?

Freud's Last Session, is a 2009 play by Mark St. Germain, which appeared Off Broadway, and with Martin Rayner (left) as Sigmund Freud and Mark Dold as C.S. Lewis, cost from $65-$85 for a seat at a YMCA in the West Side of New York City.  I paid $10 last night at the Christ Centered Community Church located above California Pizza Kitchen in the Kahala Mall, yet another outing of 15 Craigside.  I didn't bring a camera,  nor my iPhone, so here is the best I can show of the production:


The setting is London on the day Great Britain entered World War II, three weeks before Freud's death from oral cancer.  It's a two-man play which imagines Freud at 82 and 40-year old Lewis meeting in the former's study.  This never happened.  The photos below are used to publicize the play, but the reality is that Lewis was quite a bit younger at the time of the encounter, probably closer to what is on the left.


Clive Staples Lewis was in 1939 a rising star at Oxford, while Freud had escaped the rise of Hitler a year earlier from his home in Vienna.  To appreciate the interaction, it is useful to know that Lewis was an atheist in his youth, was traumatized by trench warfare in World War I, then was converted to Christianity by his colleagues at Oxford, and, frankly, went on to became a Christian apologist (from Wikipedia).  While he was well respected in academia, he is most famous for the seven fantasy novels he wrote for children:  The Chronicles of Narnia, which sold over 100 million copies and was translated into 41 languages.  Nearly five years ago I compared this series with The Golden Compass:

Earlier this year I used two films representing opposite ends of the religious spectrum The Chronicles of Narnia (pro Catholic Church--Tilda Swinton and Liam Neeson) and The Golden Compass (anti Church--Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig).  It was like a boxing match, for the first Narnia appeared in 2005, followed by the first Compass in 2007, immediately answered by the second Narnia, Prince Caspian.  

Now quoting that earlier posting:

The Golden Compass (TGC), starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, which resulted in a boycott crusade by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, claiming the film was selling atheism to children. TGC provides the other side of the story from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, which now has a sequel, Prince Caspian, as soon, too, will TGC. Chances are, any child, and most adults, will, in their vicarious way, enjoy both series, and come away in much the same way as after seeing any Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars movie. But, now that I’ve told you that the Magisterium in TGC is the Catholic Church, that might change your viewpoint.

So returning to the play, a quote about Siglsmund Schlomo Freud from Wikipedia:

The religious views of Sigmund Freud are described in several of his books and essays. Freud regarded God as an illusion, based on the infantile need for a powerful father figure; religion, necessary to help us restrain violent impulses earlier in the development of civilization, can now be set aside in favor of reason and science.[1]

Anyway, Lewis had satirized Freud in his recent book, and was asked by Freud, in obvious pain from his agonizing ailment, to please meet him at his home.  The 75-minute, no intermission, play, through a series of repartees, crystallized the greatest questions of all time--God, sex, love--in the backdrop of war, where each attempted to persuade the other about the inanity of the other's beliefs.  Paul Mitri and Donovan Oakleaf were excellent.  My wonderment is how they could memorize 75 minutes of conversation.  I guess I could do it for this subject if I could make up responses as necessary.

While a minor part of the plot, Freud was contemplating suicide, and apparently had worked out with his doctor the mechanism, morphine overdose.  This is an issue that has been on my mind, for the thought of slogging on in hopeless despair, or approaching dementia, would not be an optimal way to terminally exit.  These states not in red allow for some form of assisted suicide.  Belgium is the most liberal, allowing even children to qualify.

While most would come away feeling that no one won the discussion, my assessment is that Lewis prevailed, for in the closing scene, Freud left on the music from his radio, an obvious first step questioning his emotions.  But, then, again, the show did occur in something close to a house of worship, and it is clear that the production had religious support.

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2 comments:

Maka Point said...

the dinner at the tepanyaki ginza was excellent and I also agree that it was the best meal I have had anywhere. the price was an excellent value with the added benefits of great company, the decor, atmosphere and watching the artful work of our chefs and servers.
the drama "freuds last session" was also excellent and kept my attention or the 75 minutes and it seemed shorter than that. i agree it was wll done and the actors were well prepard and made me feel like I was a "fly on the wall" listening in on their conversation. the ending left it up to the audience as to who prevailed but one line I do remmbe as to the outcome of the discussion was made by Lewis who said' "I would be insane to think we could find the answer to the question of God's existence and eternal life in a short mornings discussion." freud then answers, "it would be more insane if we did not try." for each of us it is impotant that we come to some decision regarding the presence of God in our life. there are basically only two choices, either you believe that God exists or you do not. if you do believe, you have so much to gain but nothing to lose, if you do not, you have so much to lose but nothing to gain.

PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY said...

Ah, yes, Blaise Pascal's wager. However, there are other points of view:

http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Philosophy/axioms/axioms/node42.html

But thank you for continuing to try to save my soul. It's not yet, quite, too late.

Aloha.

Pat