In his writings on culture, Freud stipulates a close relation between religion and
psychopathology, and obsessional neurosis in particular. In this article, I would like to explore
the nature of that relation. How is it articulated, and how is it transformed in the course of
Freud’s work over four decades, between 1894 and 1939? (How) can cultural (i.e. by definition,
collective) phenomena be understood on the basis of symptoms described for individual
psychology? On what basis can categories of individual psychology be extended to the
analysis and history of cultural and societal formations? What perspectives can
psychopathology open up for the analysis of culture? Is religion ‘the cure’, or ‘the symptom’?
Or are there grounds for breaking open the relation between psychopathology and religion
as it has increasingly solidified in the course of Freud’s work, and has been hotly contested
ever since? This article works its way through these questions, and proposes to open some
paths of investigation on the subject that are inherent in psychoanalytic theory, but have
been prematurely closed off by Freud himself, as well as his adepts and critics.
CONTRIBUTION : This article critically engages with Freud’s most (in)famous statements on the
relation between psychopathology and religion through an exposition of the articulations of
this relation, as they change with the introduction of particular concepts and theories.