Friday, January 20, 2012

psychoanalytic basics- religion as recapitulating psycho-sexual development I

In ‘Totem and Taboo’ Freud uses the development of religion and it’s eventual replacement by science to explain nature and the appearance of human beings from evolution to explain primary and secondary narcissism and it’s replacement by the reality principle. He writes:

At the animistic stage men ascribe omnipotence to themselves. At the religious stage they transfer it to the gods but do not seriously abandon it themselves, for they reserve the power of influencing the gods in a variety of ways according to their wishes. The scientific view of the universe no longer affords any room for human omnipotence; men have acknowledged their smallness and submitted resignedly to death (Freud, Totem and Taboo, p.88).

Although Freud ascribes omnipotence to the early oral child it is in contradiction to other remarks in which he recognizes that a young child isn’t sadistic because the idea of causing pain to another isn’t the motivation (Freud, Instincts and their Vicissitudes, p. 128). The idea of omnipotence would similarly imply a knowledge of another person’s mind that the oral stage child couldn’t have. However, the idea that in animism humans anthropomorphize animals and inorganic nature would be the equivalent to a narcissistic transference. The patient who fears otherness and wants you to be like him is similar to the human who fears the world and tries to make it understandable in human terms.

So not omnipotence but rather: "primitive animism... caused us to see copies of our own consciousness all around us" (The Unconscious, p.171)

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