Freud and Zen
- There are factors in Freud's concept of psychoanalysis which transcend the conventional notion of illness and cure. Those familiar with Eastern thought, and especially with Zen Buddhism, will notice that the factors which I am going to mention are not without relation to concepts and thoughts of the Eastern mind. The principle to be mentioned here first is Freud's concept that knowledge leads to transformation, that theory and practice must not be separated, that in the very act of knowing oneself, one transforms oneself. It is hardly necessary to emphasize how different this idea is from the concepts of scientific psychology in Freud's time, where knowledge in itself remains theoretical knowledge, and has not a transforming function in the knower.
In still another aspect Freud's method has a close connection with Eastern thought, and especially with Zen Buddhism. Freud did not share the high evaluation of our conscious thought system, so characteristic of modern Western man. On the contrary, he believed that our conscious thought was only a small part of the whole of the psychic process going on in us and, in fact, an insignificant one in comparison with the tremendous power of those sources within ourselves which are dark and irrational and at the same time unconscious. Freud, in his wish to arrive at insight into the real nature of a person wanted to break through the conscious thought system, by his method of free association.
--Erich Fromm, "Psychoanalysis and Zen Buddhism" (1960)