viernes, 1 de mayo de 2015

The denaturation of Sophocles's Oedipus by Freud, Michel Hervé Bertaux-Navoiseau

This paper has been accepted for the IPSO 2015 international congress in Boston.

            The Freudian view of the Oedipus complex results from a cultural flaw, provoked by circumcision, that misrepresents and weakens Sophocles's myth.

            Roheim was the first to point out that the separation-of-the-mother / submission-to-the-father rituals of primitives distort the Oedipus complex:

"... the superabundance of ritual dealing with this theme (orality) is a camouflage of the Oedipus complex."[1]

That remark very obviously applies to circumcision. But Freud interprets Oedipus's blinding as a castration:

"Castration and blinding which substitutes to it are the punishment..."[2]

This is wrong. With Sophocles, the father's punishment is death through abandonment in nature, which is all other thing than castration. Freud projected upon Sophocles's myth the threat of castration of circumcision, extremely vivid since consisting in a beginning of realization. Besides, not the father but Oedipus himself operates the blinding that symbolizes his ignorance, his "blindness", his unconsciousness when he killed his father and married his mother, a double blindness thus (one eye for dad, one eye for mum). The fact that Freud transformed that metaphor into a matter of castration is the height of... his own blindness, stemming from the anguish and castration fantasies of a circumcised man. In Sophocles's scenario, the paternal punishment through death is the normal unconscious fantasy: desire to kill the father in order to marry one's mother / fear of being killed by him. Therefore, Freud projected the very Judaic idea of punishment (by anticipation) by sham and threat of castration, rather than through death, upon the Hellenistic myth. A victim of the trauma of his own circumcision, he misrepresented, warped, Sophocles's Oedipus. Therefore, Sophocles, not Freud, invented the unconscious and the Oedipus complex. Freud only invented the science of deciphering the unconscious.
            The consequence of this cultural bias is a grave theoretical mistake that flaws psychoanalytical theory and practice: Freud substitutes an inexistent "castration complex" that he improperly integrates into the Oedipus complex for the common fantasies of castration.
            For those who have not been traumatized by a sexual mutilation, at the age of sexual impulse for the parent of the opposite sex and jealousy towards the other, the threat imagined by the child facing her or his desires concerning the parental couple, is not castration but death through exclusion of the family. Freud very sensibly formulated this for girls but not for boys!
            In cultures practising circumcision, the Oedipus complex, the time of integration into society, is altered. A real castration threat is substituted for the imaginary fear of death resulting from the unconscious desire to kill the parent of the same sex. But the correct resolution of the Oedipus complex cannot result from physical injury (or threat of injury) by others. Quite the opposite, a positive or negative emphasis on whatever part of the body, by real or verbal violence from the social group, is unacceptable meddling of the lawmaker into family life and into the development of the individual, a source of mass psychopathology. This affirmation was shockingly illustrated in Israel where a court decision, happily quashed in appeal, condemned a mother to a high penalty on daily basis as long as she would not have had her son circumcised.
            The circumcised, or those who have been threatened by castration, may find a way out and may believe in a lessening in their favour of the universal Law. There is nothing like circumcision or an actual threat of castration to pervert a child. Doubting the acts or words of their progenitors is hard for them. They are naturally led to boast, with a wealth of arguments, about their deeds or misdeeds, including those against themselves. Once adults, things that seem to have always existed look natural to them, they will reproduce them.
            The circumcised thus risk making an absurd alibi of their disability. A partial castration brings them the comfort of a sign of "identification" that not only places them above women but also above the common herd. As if a mutilation could enable to leave (or... not to leave) infancy behind! No only other men, "foreigners", are intimately considered to be despicable, dirty and untouchable without one being contaminated, but above all, it would be unthinkable that they would marry their daughters or sisters. Racist endogamy and possession of women thus certainly are one of the aims of the operation. Circumcision is also an exterior sign of belonging to a violent – and therefore assumed powerful – community. Allegedly more reliable than identity documents, the collective so-called identity of a simple particular sign becomes the paradigm of the narcissism of groups that exclude themselves from of the universal community through discriminating it. This feature of identification forever puts its holders in a caste: "the elected", which may think that everything is allowed (stoning, excision, forcing into marriage, polygamy,... etc.) or owed (the Promised Land) to it. Therefore, through a violent action into the unconscious and the powerful affective world, it is a perverse technique of enrolment of the individual. It reinforces divisions of the world into rival groups indulging in merciless wars.

[1] Psychoanalysis and anthropology. New York: International university press; 1950. p. 149-150.
[2] Totem and taboo. 1912. London: The Hogarth press limited; 1964. S.E. XIII, p. 130.

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