‘The Future of an Illusion’ by Sigmund Freud

This edition published by W. W. Norton & Company in 1975.

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In the manner of the eighteenth-century philosopher, Freud argued that religion and science were mortal enemies. Early in the century, he began to think about religion psychoanalytically and to discuss it in his writings. The Future of an Illusion (1927), Freud’s best known and most emphatic psychoanalytic exploration of religion, is the culmination of a lifelong pattern of thinking.

This work was begun in the spring of 1927, it was finished by September and published in November of the same year. In the “Postscript” which Freud added in 1935 to his “Autobiographical Study” he remarked on “a significant change” that had come about in his writings during the previous decade. “My interest,” he explained, “after making a long detour through the natural sciences, medicine and psychotherapy, returned to the cultural problems which had fascinated me long before, when I was a youth scarcely old enough for thinking.” He had, of course, touched several times on those problems in the intervening years – especially in Totem and Taboo (1912-1913); but it was with The Future of an Illusion that he entered on the series of studies which were to be his major concern for the remainder of his life.

Throughout the period when Freud wrote his major works, various translations and editions, differing widely in the accuracy of their texts and the quality of their content, made their appearance. Increasingly, as the body of Freud’s work achieved commanding stature, the need arose for a definitive and uniformly authentic English-language edition of all his writings. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud was undertaken to achieve this goal. The work is under the general editorship of James Strachey, and he himself made new translations of many of the writings, supervising the emendation of others and contributing valuable notes, both bibliographical and explanatory. The result is to place this edition in a position of unquestioned supremacy over all other existing versions – which are in fact rendered obsolete.

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