In preparing a recent message on Happiness I came across a book I have read many years ago and have profitably reread. It is, In Pursuit of Happiness: Finding Genuine Fulfillment in Life, by James Houston. Let me share with you some of his thoughts about Happiness and Freud.
When God is dismissed, reality begins to collapse in on itself. There are no absolutes, there is no moral accountability, there are no universal truths, there are only appearances and masks. This is the “weightlessness” of humanity that Nietzsche envisaged for a godless world. Freud concluded that the fate of the human race was to be Unhappiness in Civilization, the title he proposed for his last great book. Freud’s publisher persuaded him that he should change the title instead to Civilization and its Discontents. His own first title was more honest.
The profound unhappiness of Freud gives us clues to the unhappiness of the modern world. Freud, like many today, was unhappy because of his addiction to controlling people and situations. Although he lived in Vienna, the great musical capital of the world, he explicitly tells us: “With music I am almost incapable of obtaining any pleasure. Some rationalistic, or perhaps analytic, turn of mind in me rebels against being moved by a thing without knowing why I am thus affected and what it is that affects me.”
Where rational understanding was not possible, Freud wanted no part of it. Music triggered deeply painful memories of his religious nanny, who loved him more profoundly that any love his parents gave him, so it reminded the child within him of her loss and his profound sense of helplessness. Religion reminded him too painfully of the helplessness of his own childhood. Whether it was music or religion, Freud hated being swept off his own rational pedestal into the ocean of his own emotions.
Our acceptance of God in Christ is not the terrifying helplessness experienced by Freud, but a renewed awareness of coming to life in the love of God…. Blaise Pascal was surely right when he observed:
“There is no good without the knowledge of God; that the closer one comes, the happier one is, and the further away one goes, the more unhappy one is, and that ultimate unhappiness would be certain of the opposite (to him).” (p.156f.)