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Volume 13


Volume XIII: 
Totem and Taboo and Other Works (1913-1914)

1912X 13/ix
Totem and taboo (1913).
Editor’s note (1955) and prefaces (1913, 1930).
In his Preface to Totem and Taboo, Freud tells us that his first stimulus for writing these essays came from the works of Wundt and Jung. Actually, his interest in social anthropology went back much further. The major elements of Freud’s contribution to social anthropology made their first appearance in this work, and more especially in the fourth essay, which contains his hypothesis of the primal horde and the killing of the primal father and elaborates his theory tracing from them the origins of almost the whole of later social and cultural institutions. Freud had begun his preparations for the work, and in particular his reading of a large amount of literature on the subject, as early as in 1910. Totem and Taboo was translated into several languages besides English during Freud’s lifetime: into Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Japanese, and Hebrew. The 4 essays were originally published in the first 2 volumes of Imago. They represent a fust attempt on Freud’s part to apply the point of view and the findings of psychoanalysis to some unsolved problems of social psychology. The analysis of taboo is put forward as an assured and exhaustive attempt at the solution of the problem. The investigation of totemism does no more than declare that here is what psychoanalysis can at the moment contribute towards elucidating the problem of the totem.

1912X 13/1
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part I. The horror of incest.
The horror of incest is discussed. The Australian aborigines, set before themselves with the most scrupulous care and the most painful severity the aim of avoiding incestuous sexual relations. Their whole social organization seems to serve that purpose or to have been brought into relation with its attainment. Among the Australians the place of all the religious and social institutions which they lack is taken by the system of totemism. A totem is, as a rule, an animal and more rarely a plant or a natural phenomenon, which stands in a peculiar relation to the whole clan. In almost every place where there are totems there is also a law against persons of the same totem having sexual relations with one another and consequently against their marrying. The violation of the prohibition is avenged in the most energetic fashion by the whole clan. Exogamy linked with the totem effects more than the prevention of incest with a man’s mothers and sisters. It makes sexual intercourse impossible for a man with all the women of his own clan by treating them all as blood relatives. Totemic exogamy appears to have been the means for preventing group incest. In an Australian tribe, 12 totem clans are divided into 4 subphratries and 2 phratries. Ml the divisions are exogamous. Various customary prohibitions (avoidances) are discussed such as those in Melanesia where intercourse between a boy and his mother and sisters is avoided by the boy moving out of the house. He subsequently does not meet them in public or speak of them. Similar customs prevail in New Caledonia, New Britain, New Mecklenburg, Fiji and Sumatra. The most widespread and strictest avoidance is that which restricts a man’s intercourse with his mother-inlaw. Incestuous wishes (childhood incestuous wishes that have been repressed) later become unconscious, and are regarded by savage peoples as immediate perils against which the most severe measures of defense must be enforced.

1912X 13/18
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part II. Taboo and emotional ambivalence. (1).
Taboo has about it a sense of something unapproachable, and it is principally expressed in prohibitions and restrictions. Taboo restrictions are distinct from religious or moral prohibitions. Wundt described taboo as the oldest human unwritten code of laws. The source of taboo is attributed to a peculiar magical power which is inherent in persons and spirits and can be conveyed by them through the medium of inanimate objects. Taboos may be permanent or temporary. Behind all the prohibitions there seems to be something in the nature of a theory that they are necessary because certain persons and things are charged with a dangerous power, which can be transformed through contact with them, almost like an infection. The quantity of this dangerous attribute also plays a part. Some people or things have more of it than others and the danger is actually proportional to the difference of potential of the charges. Anyone who has transgressed one of these prohibitions himself acquires the characteristic of being prohibited. The word taboo denotes everything, whether a person or a place or a thing or a transitory condition, which is the vehicle or source of the mysterious attribute. According to Wundt, the {rue sources of taboo lie deeper than in the interests of the privileged classes: they have their origin in the source of the most primitive and at the same time most lasting of human instincts, in fear of ‘demonic’ powers. The original characteristic of taboo (that a demonic power lies hidden in an object and if the object is touched it takes its vengeance by casting a spell over the wrong-doer) is still ‘objectified fear.’ That fear has not yet split into the 2 forms into which it later develops: veneration and horror. Also according to Wundt, the distinction between sacred and unclean did not exist in the primitive beginnings of taboo; therefore taboo applies both to what is sacred and what is unclean through dread of contact with it.

1912X 13/26
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part II. Taboo and emotional ambivalence.
(2). Parallel between taboo and obsessional neurosis.
Anyone approaching the problem of taboo from the angle of psychoanalysis, will recognize that the phenomena of taboo are far from unfamiliar. The most obvious and striking point of agreement between the obsessional prohibitions of neurotics and taboos is that these prohibitions are equally lacking in motive and equally puzzling in their origin. As in the case of taboo, the principal prohibition, the nucleus of the neurosis, is against touching; thus sometimes known as touching phobia. Obsessional prohibitions are extremely liable to displacement. Obsessional prohibitions involve just as extensive renunciations and restrictions in the lives of those who are subject to them as do taboo prohibitions; but some of them can be lifted if certain actions are performed. Thereafter, these actions must be performed: they become compulsive or obsessive acts, and there can be no doubt that they are in the nature of expiation, penance, defensive measures, and purification. A continuing conflict between the prohibition and the instinct to do something is called a psychical fixation. The principal characteristic of this psychological constellation is described as the subject’s ambivalent attitude towards a single object or an act connected with that object. The transmissibility of taboo is a reflection of the tendency for the unconscious instinct in the neurosis to shift constantly along associative paths on to new objects. If the violation of a taboo can be made good by atonement or expiation, which involve the renunciation of some possession or some freedom, this proves that obedience to the taboo injunction meant in itself the renunciation of something desirable. It is concluded that taboo is a primaeval prohi5ition forcibly imposed from outside, and directed against the most powerful longings to which human beings are subject. The desire to violate it persists in their unconscious; those who obey the taboo have an ambivalent attitude to what the taboo prohibits.

1912X 13/35
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part II. Taboo and emotional ambIvalence.
(3). The treatment of enemies.
The taboos connected with the treatment of enemies are discussed. The killing of a man is governed by a number of observances which are included among the usages of taboo. These observances fall into the following 4 groups: I) the appeasement of the slain enemy; 2) restrictions upon the slayer; 3) acts of expiation and purification by him; and 4) certain ceremonial observances. The conclusion that is drawn from all these observances is that the impulses which they express towards an enemy are not solely hostile ones. They are also manifestations of remorse, of admiration for the enemy, and of a bad conscience for having killed him. In the accepted explanation of all the observances of appeasement, restriction, expiation, and purification, 2 principles are combined: the extension of the taboo from the slain man on to everything that has come in contact with him, and the fear of the slain man’s ghost. In Freud’s explanation, stress is put on the unity of the view, which derives all of these observances from emotional ambivalence towards the enemy.

1912X 13/41
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part II. Taboo and emotional ambivalence.
(3). (b). The taboo upon rulers.
The taboos connected with the treatment of rulers are discussed. The attitude of primitive peoples to their chiefs, kings, and priests is governed by 2 basic principles. A ruler must not only be guarded, he must also be guarded against. Rulers must be guarded against because they are vehicles of the mysterious and dangerous magical power which is transmitted by contact like an electric charge and which brings death and ruin to anyone who is not protected by a similar charge. The need to protect the king from every possible form of danger follows from his immense importance to his subjects. The ceremonial taboo of kings is ostensibly the highest honor and protection for them, while actually it is a punishment for their exaltation, a revenge taken on them by their subjects. An element of distrust may be traced among the reasons for the taboo observances that surround the king. One of the most glaring instances of a sacred ruler being fettered and paralysed by taboo ceremonials was found in the mode of life of the Japanese Mikado in earlier centuries. Some of the taboos laid upon barbarian kings are similar to the restrictions imposed upon murderers. The taboos not only pick out the king and exalt him above all common mortals, but also make his existence a torment and an intolerable burden, and reduce him to a bondage worse than that of his subjects.

1912X 13/51
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part II. Taboo and emotional ambivalence.
(3). (c). The taboo upon the dead.
(4). Taboo and conscience.
The taboo upon the dead is especially virulent among most primitive peoples. It is manifested in the consequences that follow contact with the dead and in the treatment of mourners. The taboo observances after bodily contact with the dead are the same for Polynesia, Melanesia and a part of Africa. Their most regular feature is the prohibition against those who have had such contact to the touching of food themselves, and the consequent necessity for their being fed by other people. Essentially the same prohibitions apply to those who have been in contact with the dead only in a metaphorical sense. One of the most puzzling, but at the same time instructive, usages in connection with mourning is the prohibition against uttering the name of the dead person, since the name is regarded as an essential part of a man’s personality and as an important possession. Obsessional neurotics behave exactly like savages in relation to names. Those who employ this taboo are afraid of the presence or of the return of the dead person’s ghost. It is supposed that a dearly loved relative turns into a demon at the moment of his death and his survivors can expect nothing but hostility. Here we see the ambivalence of human emotions where a mourner reproaches himself for the death of a loved one, knowing that unconsciously he wished for the death. Unconscious hostility is projected on to demons in the case of taboo of the dead. The explanation of taboo also throws light on the nature and origin of conscience: that conscience arose also on the basis of emotional ambivalence and under the same conditions, (that one of the opposing feelings involved shall be unconscious and kept under repression by the compulsive domination of the other one). Violation of taboo among primitive peoples results in punishment of whoever was responsible for violating the taboo while in obsessional neuroses performance of the forbidden act causes punishment of a person other than the one committing the act. What actually happens in the latter case is that the original wish that the loved person may die is replaced by the fear that he may die, thus giving a neurosis that is compensating for an underlying contrary attitude of brutal egoism. The neuroses are asocial structures; they endeavour to achieve by private means what is effected in society by collective effort. Taboo observances, like neurotic symptoms, have this double sense.

1912X 13/75
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part III. Animism, magic and the omnipotence of thoughts.
(1). Animism.
(2). Magic.
The psychoanalytic approach states that it is not to be supposed that men were inspired to create their first system of the universe by pure speculative curiosity. The practical need for controlling the world around them must have played its part. Sorcery is essentially the art of influencing spirits by treating them in the same way as one would treat men in like circumstances: appeasing them, making amends to them, propitiating them, intimidating them, robbing them of their power, subduing them to one’s will, etc. Magic, on the other hand, is something different: fundamentally, it disregards spirits and makes use of special procedures and not of everyday psychological methods. Magic has to serve the most varied purposes: it must subject natural phenomena to the will of man, it must protect the individual from his enemies and from dangers, and it must give him power to injure his enemies. One of the most widespread magical procedures for injuring an enemy is by making an effigy of him from any convenient material. Whatever is then done to the effigy is believed to happen to the detested original. There is another procedure by which an enemy can be injured. One gets possession of some of his hair or nails or other waste products or even a piece of his clothing, and treats them in some hostile way. The principle governing magic, the technique of the animistic mode of thinking, is the principle of the omnipotence of thought.

1912X 13/85
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part III. Animism, magic, omnipotence of thoughts.
(3). Omnipotence of thoughts.
(4). Totemism is a system.
In obsessional neuroses the survival of the omnipotence of thoughts (strange and uncanny events which pursue) is most clearly visible. The primary obsessive acts of neurotics are of an entirely magical character. In primitive man, the process of thinking is sexualized; this attitude may plausibly be brought into relation with narcissism and be regarded as an essential component of it. In only a single field of our civilization, art, has the omnipotence of thoughts being retained. The first picture which man formed of the world, animism, was a psychological one. The technique of animism, magic, reveals in the clearest and most unmistakable way an intention to impose the laws governing mental life upon real things; in this, spirits need not as yet play any part, though spirits may be taken as objects of magical treatment. Spirits and demons are only projections of man’s own emotional impulses. He turns his emotional cathexes into persons, he peoples the world with them and meets his internal mental processes again outside himself. Thus man’s first theoretical achievement, the creation of spirits, seems to have arisen from the observances of taboo. With primitive man, superstition need not be the only or the real reason for some particular custom or observance and does not excuse us from the duty of searching for its hidden motives. Under the domination of an animistic system it is inevitable that every observance and every activity shall have a systematic basis, which we now describe as superstitious.

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Totem and taboo (1913).
Part IV. The return of totemism in childhood:
(1). The nature of totemism.
The return of totemism in childhood is discussed. A totem is a class of material objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect, believing that there exists between him and every member of the class an intimate and special relation. There are at least 3 kinds of totems: 1) the clan totem, common to a whole clan, and passing by inheritance from generation to generation; 2) the sex totem, common either to all the males or to all the females of a tribe, to the exclusion in either case of the other sex; and 3) the individual totem, belonging to a single individual and not passing to his descendants. The clan expects to receive protection and care from its totem. The appearance of the totem in or about a house is often regarded as an omen of death. In particularly important circumstances the clansman seeks to emphasize his kinship with the totem by making himself resemble it externally by dressing in the skin of an animal, by incising a picture of the totem upon his own body, etc. The social aspect of totemism is principally expressed in a severely enforced injunction and a sweeping restriction. The members of a totem clan are brothers and sisters and are bound to help and protect one another. The corresponding taboo restriction prohibits members of the same clan from marrying or having sexual intercourse with each other. If we seek to penetrate to the original nature of totemism, we find that its essential characteristics are these: originally, all totems were animals, and were regarded as the ancestors of the different clans. Totems were inherited only through the female line. There was a prohibition against killing the totem. Members of a totem clan were forbidden to practice sexual intercourse with one another.

1912X 13/108
Taboo and totem (1913).
Part IV. The return of totemism in children.
(2). The origin of totemism; the origin of exogamy and its relation to totemism.
The published theories on the origin of totemism are divided into 3 groups: the nominalist, the sociological, and the psychological. Some of the explanations of totemism exclude any connection with exogamy, so that the 2 institutions fall completely apart. There are 2 opposing views: one which seeks to maintain the original presumption that exogamy forms an inherent part of the totemic system, and the other which denies that there is any such connection and holds that the convergence between these 2 features of the oldest cultures is a chance one. Most of the authorities agree that totemism is older than exogamy. The view which explains horror of incest as an innate instinct must be abandoned. Not only must the prohibition against incest be older than any domestication of animals which might have enabled men to observe the effects of inbreeding upon racial characters, but even today the detrimental results of inbreeding are not established with certainty and cannot easily be demonstrated in man.

1912X 13/126
Totem and taboo (1913).
Part IV. The return of totemism in childhood.
(3). Animal phobias.
(4). Sacrificial feasts.
There is a great deal of resemblance between the relations of children and of primitive men towards animals. Not infrequently, a strange rift occurs in the excellent relations between children and animals. A child will suddenly begin to be frightened of some particular species of animal and to avoid touching or seeing any individual of that species. This is due to a displacement of affect. Analysis is able to trace the associative paths along which the displacement passes, both the fortuitous paths and those with a significant content. Analysis also enables us to discover the motives for the displacement. It may be said that in these children’s phobias some of the features of totemism reappear, but reversed into their negative. If the totem animal is the father, then the 2 principal ordinances of totemism, the 2 taboo prohibitions which constitute its core, not to kill the totem and not to have sexual relations with a woman of the same totem, coincide in their content with the 2 crimes of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother, as well as with the 2 primal wishes of children, the insufficient repression or the reawakening of which forms the nucleus of perhaps every psychoneurosis. The sacramental killing and communal eating of the totem animal, whose consumption is forbidden on all other occasions, is an important feature of totemic religion.

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Totem and taboo (1913).
Part IV. The return of totemism in childhood.
(5), (6). Relation of totem meals to father and God.
A festival is a permitted, or rather an obligatory, excess, a solemn breach of a prohibition. It is not that men commit the excess because it is of the essence of a festival; the festive feeling is produced by the liberty to do what is as a rule prohibited. The clansmen acquire sanctity by consuming the totem. Psychoanalysis has revealed that the totem animal is in reality a substitute for the father; and this tallies with the contradictory fact that, though the killing of the animal is as a rule forbidden, yet its killing is a festive occasion, with the fact that it is killed and yet mourned. Psychoanalysis requires us to assume that totemism and exogamy were intimately connected and had a simultaneous origin. The ancient totem meal recurs in the original form of sacrifice. It is supposed that the god himself was the totem animal, and that he developed out of it at a later state of religious feeling. As time went on, the animal lost its sacred character and the sacrifice lost its connection with the totem feast; it became a simple offering to the deity, an act of renunciation in favor of the god. We can trace through the ages the identity of the totem meal with animal sacrifice, with the anthropic human sacrifice and with the Christian Eucharist, and we can recognize in all these rituals the effect of the crime by which men were so deeply weighted down but of which they must none the less have felt so proud. The Christian communion, however, is essentially a fresh elimination of the father, a repetition of the guilty deed.

1912X 13/155
Totem and Taboo (1913).
Part IV. Return of totemism in childhood.
(7). Oedipus complex and society.
An event such as the elimination of the primal father by the company of his sons must inevitably have left ineradicable traces in the history of humanity; and the less it itself was recollected, the more numerous must have been the substitutes to which it gave rise. The beginnings of religion, morals, society, and art converge in the Oedipus complex. This is in complete agreement with the psychoanalytic findings that the same complex constitutes the nucleus of all neuroses, so far as our present knowledge goes. It seems that the problems of social psychology should prove soluble on the basis of one single concrete point: man’s relation to his father. No one can have failed to observe that the existence of a collective mind is taken as the basis of the position. It is supposed that the sense of guilt for an action has persisted for many thousands of years and has remained operative in generations which can have had no knowledge of that action. Without the assumption of a collective mind, social psychology in general cannot exist. Another difficulty might actually be brought forward from psychoanalytic quarters. The earliest moral precepts and restrictions in a primitive society have been explained as reactions to a deed which gave those who performed it the concept of crime. They felt remorse for the deed and decided that it should never be repeated. This creative sense of guilt still persists among us.

1913J 13/165
The claims of psycho-analysis to scientific interest (1913).
Part I. The psychological interest of psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalysis is a medical procedure which aims at the cure of certain forms of nervous disease (the neuroses) by a psychological technique. There are a large number of phenomena related to facial and other expressive movements and to speech, as well as many processes of thought, which have hitherto escaped the notice of psychology. What Freud means are parapraxes, haphazard actions and dreams in normal people, and convulsive attacks, deliria, visions, and obsessive ideas or acts in neurotic subjects. The commonest motive for suppressing an intention is the avoidance of unpleasure. The explanation of parapraxes owes its theoretical value to the ease with which they can be solved and their frequency in normal people. The interpretation of dreams brought psychoanalysis into conflict with official science. Medical research explains dreams as purely somatic phenomena. Psychoanalysis has demonstrated that all dreams have a meaning. Psychoanalysis raises the status of dreams into that of psychical acts possessing meaning and purpose, and having a place in the subject’s mental life, and thus disregards their strangeness, incoherence, and absurdity. Dream work brings about the distortion which makes the dream thoughts unrecognizable in the content of the dream. All dreams involve wish fulfillment. The dream work compels us to assume the existence of an unconscious psychical activity which is more comprehensive and more important than the familiar activity that is linked with consciousness. Psychoanalysis ascribes the primacy in mental life to affective processes, and it reveals an unexpected amount of affective disturbance and blinding of the intellect, in normal, no less than in sick people.

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The claims of psycho-analysis to scientific interest (1913).
Part II. The claims of psycho-analysis to the interest of the non-psychological sciences.
(A), (B), (C). The philological, philosophical and biological interest of psychoanalysis.
The interpretation of dreams is analogous to the decipherment of an ancient pictographic script. In both cases there are certain elements which are not intended to be interpreted but are only designed to serve as determinatives, that is to establish the meaning of some other element. The language of dreams may be looked upon as the method by which unconscious mental activity expresses itself. Philosophy will be unable to avoid taking the psychoanalytic contributions to psychology fully into account and reacting to this new enrichment in our knowledge. Psychoanalysis can indicate the subjective and individual motives behind philosophical theories which have ostensibly sprung from impartial logical work, and can draw a critic’s attention to the weak spots in the system. Psychoanalysis has done justice to the sexual function in man by making a detailed examination of its importance in mental and practical life. Sexual interests and activities are present in the human child at almost every age and from the first. The normal sexuality of adults emerges from infantile sexuality by a series of developments, combinations, divisions and suppressions, which are scarcely ever achieved with ideal perfection and consequently leave behind predispositions to a retrogression of the function in the form of illness.

1913J 13/182
The claims of psycho-analysis to scientific interest (1913).
Part II. The claims of psycho-analysis to the interest of the non-psychological sciences.
(D). The interest of psycho-analysis from a developmental point of view. (E), (F), (G), (H).
Psychoanalysis has been obliged to derive the mental life of adults from that of children, and has had to take seriously the old saying that the child is father to the man. Some notable discoveries have been made in the course of the investigation of the infantile mind including the extraordinarily important influence exerted by the impressions of childhood on the whole course of later development. In spite of all the later development that occurs in the adult, none of the infantile mental formations perish. It seems quite possible to apply the psychoanalytic views derived from dreams to products of ethnic imagination such as myths and fairy tales. Psychoanalysis has established an intimate connection between psychical achievements of individuals and societies by postulating one and the same dynamic source for both of them. The principal function of the mental mechanism is to relieve the individual from the tensions created in him by his needs. An investigation of primitive peoples shows mankind in a childish belief in its own omnipotence. Art constitutes a region halfway between a reality which frustrates wishes and the wish fulfilling world of the imagination, a region in which, as it were, primitive man’s strivings for omnipotence are still in full force. Social feelings (the emotional basis of the relation of the individual to society) invariably contain an erotic element. In general, the neuroses are asocial in their nature. They always aim at driving the individual out of society and at replacing the safe monastic seclusion of earlier days by the isolation of illness. Psychoanalysis fully demonstrates the part played by social conditions and requirements in the causation of neurosis. Psychoanalysis has brought to light the wishes, the thought structures, and the developmental processes of childhood, thus allowing better insight into educational methods. When educators become familiar with the findings of psychoanalysis they will not overestimate the importance of the socially unserviceable or perverse instinctual impulses which emerge in children but will refrain from forcibly suppressing such impulses (knowing that suppression often results in worse results). To forcibly suppress these impulses results in repression, which establishes a predisposition to later nervous illness.

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Observations and examples from analytic practice(1913).
Observations and examples from analytic practice are presented. Twenty4wo different dreams are presented. They include: a dream with an unrecognized precipitating cause; the time of day in dreams which stands for the age of the dreamer at some particular period in his childhood; the representation of ages in dreams; the position when waking from a dream; 2 rooms (the female genitals) being made into 1 room; an overcoat as a symbol for a man; disgraced feet (shoes); considerations of representability; dreams about dead people; fragmentary dreams; self-criticism by neurotics; and the appearance in the dream of the symptoms of the illness.

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Fausse reconnaissance (‘deja raconte’) in psycho-analytic treatment (1914).
It not infrequently happens in the course of an analytic treatment that the patient, after reporting some fact that he has remembered, will go on to say that he has already said that, while the analyst himself feels sure that this is the first time he has heard the story. The explanation of this frequent occurrence appears to be that the patient really had an intention of giving this information, that once or even several times he actually made some remark leading up to it, but that he was then prevented by resistance from carrying out his purpose, and afterwards confused a recollection of his intention with a recollection of its performance. The phenomenon presented by the patient in cases like this deserves to be called a fausse reconnaissance, and is completely analogous to what occurs in certain other cases and has been described as a deja vu. There is another kind of fausse reconnaissance which not infrequently makes its appearance at the close of a treatment. After he has succeeded in forcing the repressed event upon the patient’s acceptance in the teeth of all resistances, and has succeeded, as it were, in rehabilitating it, the patient may say that he now feels as though he had known it all the time. With this, the work of the analysis has been completed.

1914B 13/209
The Moses of Michelangelo (1914). Part I. Description of critics.
Descriptions by various critics of the Moses of Michelangelo, a fragment of the gigantic tomb which the artist was to have erected for the powerful Pope Julius the Second, is presented. There is not the slightest doubt that it represents Moses holding the Tables of the Ten Commandments. Moses is represented as seated; his body faces forward, his head with its mighty beard looks to the left, his right foot rests on the ground and his left leg is raised so that only the toes touch the ground. The facial expression of Moses is characterized as showing a mixture of wrath, pain, and contempt. A majority of critics describe the statue as the descent from Mount Sinai, where Moses has received the Tables from God, and it is the moment when he perceives that the people are rejoicing around the Golden Calf. The figure of Moses cannot be supposed to be springing to his feet; but is in sublime repose like the other figures and like the proposed statue of the Pope. Without the display of the emotions of anger, contempt and pain it would not have been possible to portray the nature of a superman of this kind. Michelangelo has created, not a historical figure, but a character type, embodying an inexhaustible inner force which tames the recalcitrant world; and he has given a form not only to the Biblical narrative of Moses, but to his own inner experiences, and to his impressions both of the individuality of Julius himself, and also, of the underlying springs of Savonarola’s perpetual conflicts.

1914B 13/222
The Moses of Michelangelo (1914). Part II. Freud’s description.
In 2 places in the figure of Moses there are certain details which have hitherto not only escaped notice but have not even been properly described. These are the attitude of his right hand and the position of the 2 Tables of the Law. The thumb of the hand is concealed and the index finger alone is in effective contact with the beard. It is pressed so deeply against the soft masses of hair that they bulge out beyond it both above and below. We have assumed that the right hand was, to begin with, away from the beard; that then it reached across to the left of the figure in a moment of great emotional tension and seized the beard; that it was finally drawn back again, taking a part of the beard with it. There are some difficulties involved in this interpretation since the right hand is responsible for the tables which are upside down. The Tables are stood on their heads and practically balanced on one corner. The upper edge is straight, the lower one has a protuberance like a horn on the part nearest the viewer, and the Tables touch the stone seat precisely with this protuberance. It is to prevent the Tables from hitting the ground that the right hand retreated, let go the beard, a part of which was drawn back with it unintentionally, came against the upper edge of the Tables in time and held them near the hind corner, which had now come uppermost. Thus the singularly constrained air of the whole, beard, hand, and tilted Tables, can be traced to that one passionate movement of the hand and its natural consequences.

1914B 13/229
1927B
The Moses of Michelangelo (1914). Part III, IV, and postscript.
In his first transport of fury, Moses desired to act, to spring up and take vengeance and forget the Tables; but he has overcome the temptation, and he will not remain seated and still, in his frozen wrath and in his pain mingled with contempt. Nor will he throw away the Tables so that they will break on the stones, for it is on their especial account that he has controlled his anger; it was to preserve them that he kept his passion in check. As our eyes travel down it, the figure exhibits 3 distinct emotional strata. The lines of the face reflect the feelings which have won the ascendancy; the middle of the figure shows the traces of suppressed movement; and the foot still retains the attitude of the projected action. The Moses of legend and tradition had a hasty temper and was subject to fits of passion. But Michelangelo placed a different Moses on the tomb of the Pope, one superior to the historical or traditional Moses. In his creations Michelangelo has often enough gone to the utmost limit of what is expressible in art; and perhaps in his statue of Moses he has not completely succeeded, if his purpose was to make the passage of a violent gust of passion visible in the signs left behind it in the ensuing calm.

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Some reflections on schoolboy psychology (1914).
Some reflections on schoolboy psychology are presented. Psychoanalysis has taught that the individual’s emotional attitudes to other people, which are of such extreme importance to his later behavior, are already established at an unexpectedly early age. The nature and quality of the human child’s relations to people of his own and the opposite sex have already been laid down in the first 6 years of his life. Of all the images of a childhood which, as a rule, is no longer remembered, none is more important for a youth or a man than that of his father. In the second half of childhood, a change sets in in the boy’s relation to his father. He finds that his father is no longer the mightiest, wisest, and richest of beings. It is in this phase of a youth’s development that he comes into contact with his teachers. These men, not all of whom were in fact fathers themselves, become the substitute fathers. That was why, even though they were still quite young, they struck us as so mature and so unattainably adult.

Abstracts of the Standard Edition of 
the Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud

Carrie Lee Rothgeb, Editor

 

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