Monday, April 8, 2013

Money Wisdom #112

In Freud’s account, following on their rebellious deed, their aggressive impulses sated, the junior males, who all along had harbored profoundly ambivalent views about their despotic alpha, loving him and hating him equally and at the same time, now fell back on their loving tendencies, and in their remorse, imposed inhibitions on themselves that led to exogamy in marriage - the giving away of the women of the group who had been the original prize they were seeking, in exchange for the women of other groups. They also prohibited intergroup aggression, and to enforce these new rules, they invented the totemic religion that established a ritual relationship to the remembered ghost of the slain patriarch in the form of an ancestral animal. Through a mechanism directly analogous to the repression of an infantile trauma in an individual, Freud proposed, human civilization at first repressed the memory of the trauma of the primal murder, which expressed itself in indirect symbolic ways such as in the rituals and myths of totemism. There was then a long period of ‘‘latency,’’ just as there is after the Oedipal upheavals of individual childhood, and this might be understood to correspond to the ‘‘latency’’ during which the sexual aggression that had led to the primal crime was successfully defended against by repression. In a gradual process parallel to the‘‘return of the repressed’’ in individual lives, however, the memory of the primal deed reasserted itself, as the evolution of religious forms passed through stages of hero worship, polytheism and henotheism, culminating in monotheism - the reinstatement through ‘‘deferred obedience’’ of the alpha male despot in the form of God the Father. The whole process would recapitulate the development of the mature restrictive superego of the well-socialized, rule-obeying, conscientious citizen of human society.

This scenario, once one filters out the antiquated language and translates it into the more contemporary terms I have suggested above, has just enough uncanny resonance that one is tempted or at least I am tempted to exclaim along with Robin Fox ‘‘something like it must have taken place’’ (1980:61).

Robert A Paul Yes, the Primal Crime Did Take Place : A Further Defense of Freud’s Totem & Taboo
(in Ethos - Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology - Vol. 38, Issue 2) (2010) p.235

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