Eurdekian 1 Teny Eurdekian Mr.

Wilson Mythology 01-13-09 The Power of Eros: A Freudian Inquiry into Myth “Everywhere I go… I find that a poet has been there before me.” Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

Mythology reflects our most basic human desires; their fantasy and imagination represents a truth about our ancestors – a truth about humans that has been forgotten and ignored in the modern world. We like to imagine ourselves as rational, civilized, evolved and cultured human beings. This paper intends to challenge that thought by exposing the uncensored truth – the truth about mythology, the truth about ourselves. Psycho-historian Iakov Levi (who is heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud) wrote that, “myths, tales and dreams express psychic contents through the instrument of symbols, which are condensed representations charged with energy” (“Pinocchio and the Cult of the Trees” par. 1). This energy is Eros, the root of all thought and being. Eros motivates us to love, to work, to commit suicide and murder. Its repression in modern civilization is the cause of neuroses, and when it is channeled into work, civilization grows. When it is cathected1 onto a love-object, our species reproduce. When it is directed towards the self, we become narcissistic or masochistic. The Austrian physician Sigmund Freud was aware of mythology’s importance in understanding the human

To invest emotional energy into a person, idea, or object.

Eurdekian 2 psyche, and so he based his theories on the very idea of Eros – of sexual desire – as the most powerful driving force. His method and genius unlocked the unconscious and gave birth to a new theory of the mind. Iakov Levi also noted that, “when nobody knew of psychoanalysis, no one desperately tried to repress it. Tales were just tales… desires, drives, fears and feelings” (“The Three Little Pigs” par. 1). Mythology, religion, and fairytales – all products of human thought – expressed basic human desires which were free from taboo. Incestuous, homosexual, and pedophilic relationships existed freely in the Greek and Roman Age, which was a stark contrast to the prudish Victorian Era of Sigmund Freud’s lifetime. Mythology was created long before urbanization and the ‘age of science’ – in a sense, mythology was the science of these ancient cultures. It was a product of a growing population, an explanation as to why things were the way they were (in the language of magical thinking). But today, ancient mythology obviously tells us more about our mental world than about the rational, external world. Mythology isn’t scientific – it’s psychological. In his Freudo-Marxist synthesis Eros and Civilization, philosopher Herbert Marcuse reveals that, “artistic work, where it is genuine, seems to grow out of a non-repressive instinctual constellation” (77). Mythology, fairytales, and religion all derive from a universal drive (as branches of Eros), but censor themselves through the use of symbolism. The complex mythology of ancient Rome and Greece is the main reference for this paper (as it is also the most familiar). However, it is important to note that the mythology of other cultures parallels the same basic ideas within Greek and Roman mythology.

Eurdekian 3 i. In Historical Context Before delving into the theories of Sigmund Freud and the symbolism in mythology, it is important to understand human repression within the context of history. Both of these Eras – the Greek/Roman and the Victorian – were staggeringly different from each other. The Victorian Age is infamous for having been prudish and repressed — anything and anyone who threatened this strict Victorian social order was subject to severe punishment (Martain, “Victorian Sexuality”). The Victorians went even so far that, “a medical and moral campaign was waged around the sexuality of children. Parents, educators, doctors were all alerted to hunt out any traces of child sexuality… one nineteenth century doctor invented a device which administered electric shocks to a sleeping boy's penis upon erection” (ibid., par.5). The repression of female sexuality was even worse. Women who openly enjoyed sex were looked upon with disgust – in fact, the main cure for female hysteria2 was something very similar to a sexual aid used by women today. The ‘hysterical women’ were hysterical because they were forced into such an intense repression in Victorian society. Sexuality, especially the sexuality of young children, was seen as harmful and highly taboo. Infantile sexuality wasn’t believed to exist, or not supposed to exist, in children. Freud, however, wasn’t ignorant of the importance of childhood and the role it plays in shaping our psyches (he later expanded these ideas to social psychology, equating children with primitive man, and primitive man with animal). Freud asserted that children did have sexual lives, and believed that understanding infantile sexuality

Female hysteria was a medical diagnosis for women who showed symptoms of nausea, faintness, insomnia, and irritability. Today the term is out of use. It is the same neurosis that Freud tried to understand early on in his career and replaced with the now-accepted conversion hysteria.

Eurdekian 4 was the key to understanding modern man without the barrier of repression. Marcuse tells us that, “as cognition gives way to re-cognition, the forbidden images and impulses of childhood begin to tell the truth that reason denies” (18). This truth can be found in mythology and other works of art by primitive peoples; this is why mythology is such a helpful resource for psychoanalysts. The Greek and Roman Age, however, was nothing like the pseudo-civilized3 Victorian Era. We can see, through studying their history and culture, that these primitive people were more liberal, and in a sense more ‘human’ than the cultures that followed into modernity. Because they weren’t forced into a suppression of their instincts, their art (a product of the mind) was ingrained more honestly into their lives.4 Primitive cultures were a great interest to Freud, as he later displayed5 in his brilliant essay Totem and Taboo. Freud knew that the mythology of primitive cultures was a key to understanding the uncensored human psyche – mythology was the culture of the mind. How did the Victorians react? They were just as aware as Freud of the taboos present in Greek and Roman mythology, and began to censor the texts: “Victorian and Edwardian scholars made valiant efforts to explain away clear historical references to homosexuality… other Victorian scholars would show even less integrity than the tutor,

I choose the term pseudo-civilized because in my opinion, civilized behavior isn’t a quality – it is impossible to truly be civilized (‘fitting into contemporary civilization’) because even outside the context of history, our unconscious (the Id) operates with the same, unbiased reptilian brain. Being civilized is, at its best, a way for the ego to adapt to its environment and the external world. But as we’ll see, the Ego and the Id struggle for power over the individual’s psyche and it isn’t automatically clear who is in control. 4 It seems, nowadays, that art is less human – art is not for the sake of art anymore. We have commercialized art, infected it, and turned it into an end. Instead of letting it reflect our thoughts and feelings, we think in terms of ideas (and of the “group”) and automatically suppress and edit anything that leaves untied strings. We fail to accept that our mind is not finalist, and we obsess over the idea of a conclusion. It is more difficult than it seems for a contemporary writer to write a myth, because we force rationality. 5 “Freud viewed primitive religious figures as the manifestation of human's hidden desires, seeing all religions as a mass delusion or a paranoid wish-fulfillment. He sought to discover the universal truths of human nature that were enshrined in the figures themselves” (

Eurdekian 5 translating the passages so that the classical authors appeared to be speaking about platonic friendship” (Peterson, “Misguided Search for Homoeroticism” par. 6). Overall, Freud wanted to help his patients overcome their neuroses — anxieties, phobias, obsessions — and understand how the human mind operates. In general, he believed that the repression of innate desires was the main cause for neuroses: “Symptoms are substitutes – transcriptions as it were – for a number of emotionally cathected mental processes, wishes and desires, which, by the operation of a special psychical procedure (repression), have been prevented from obtaining discharge” (Gay 255). For Freud, desire is synonymous with Eros – and Eros is the life instinct. Freud’s original assumption about instincts was between ego-drives (hunger, thirst, fear; self-preservation) and sexual drives (lust; preservation of the species). However, upon discovering narcissism as a primary condition present in children, he made a new division: the sexual drive splits into a narcissistic and externally-directed component. This is the distinction between ego-libido and object-libido. This next segment will explain Eros, how it works, and where it is channeled.


Eros, Thanatos, and the Libidinal Cathexis In mythology, the god Eros fittingly presents himself as a male child. The

representation of Eros as a child is appropriate because, in terms of Freud, the sexual instinct (our bundle of animal drives) is so primitive and deeply ingrained in our species – even the simplest mammals are driven to copulate with each other. According to Freud,

Eurdekian 6 there are three parts to our psychic apparatus: the Id6, Ego7, and Superego8. Knowing these three concepts is essential to understanding the psyche, and therefore, the origins of myth. Iakov Levi reveals that, “tales are the expression of mental contents, the substance of which are unconscious drives, namely, repressed needs, emerging in the tale by circumvention of the censorship of the Ego. They do not teach, they express a sentiment” (“The Three Little Pigs” par. 3). Thus, mythology is less of a ‘story of morals’9 and more of what Freud might call a dream.10 The Ego is responsible for censoring our Id (or anything that is socially unacceptable/taboo) which leaves us, as civilized men, unable to express our true selves – except for in the case of Art. In his sub-chapter entitled Phantasy and Utopia, Herbert Marcuse makes the following statement: “Art is perhaps the most visible ‘return of the repressed,’ not only on the individual but also on the generic-historical level. The artistic imagination shapes the ‘unconscious memory’ of the liberation that failed of the promise that was betrayed” (130). This betrayed promise is the Id which, under the rule of the reality principle11, was forced into repression. The Id, like the submerged part of an iceberg12, was hidden and forced even deeper into our psyches, but didn’t fail to operate just as strongly as it had

Id [Es]: the unconscious layer of our psyche that strives for satisfaction of the basic instinctual needs, in accordance with the pleasure principle (toward pleasure and away from pain – the downside is its impatience, stubbornness, and need for immediate gratification). It doesn’t make compromises; it doesn’t even aim to preserve its own existence. 7 Ego [Ich]: the layer of our psyche that observes and tests reality, adjusts itself to the external world, organizes/controls our instinctual impulses (but just enough so that we can function in reality and avoid conflict). According to Marcuse, the Ego “dethrones” the pleasure principle. 8 Superego [Über-Ich]: the conscience, our unconscious sense of guilt and unconscious need for punishment. It forms/develops after the dissolution of the Oedipus complex, and strengthens due to agents of socialization (parents, society, institutions/schools, the state, the law). It protects the unity of the ego and helps the individual mature by turning the Ego against the Id; causing a “split” in their unity (which are incompatible anyway). The superego works in service to Thanatos (the death drive). 9 However, religion is a little different, and I will analyze religion later in the essay. 10 Repressed and unconscious truths that use symbolism to disguise their true meaning. 11 The psychological shift which Freud calls the “greatest traumatic event in the development of man”; this is the lesson learned after the dissolution of the universal Oedipus complex, which will be explained later. 12 A popular analogy for Freud’s concept of the unconscious.

Eurdekian 7 before. The more civilized, rational and ‘reasonable’ our society became, the stronger we repressed our basic instincts and channeled our Eros into work, production, and Art. The driving force of Eros was re-directed into more productive and necessary activities, 13 making the sacrifice for civilization at the expense of immediate gratification. Why is Eros a boy, and not a girl? I believe that, from a biological perspective, Eros represents testosterone. It is sexual drive which is equally as aggressive, an impulse present in both men and women. According to Freud, Eros is more than carnal desire; it is the life instinct, the desire for wholeness and unification. Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium mirrors Eros’ desire to be whole; he creates a myth in which humans were once androgynous spheres who, after being chopped in half by Zeus, spent the rest of their days trying to re-unite with their original nature. Freud directly refers to this in Beyond the Pleasure Principle when he says, “the popular view of the sexual instinct is beautifully reflected in the poetic fable which tells how the original human beings were cut up into two halves – man and woman – and how these are always striving to unite again in love” (Gay 623). But Eros betrays its aim. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud writes that at the peak of a love relationship, two lovers can be so enamored that they don’t need a child to make them happy and that they show less interest in the surrounding world. But he then writes about a contradictory aspect of sexuality, stating that, “in no other case does Eros so plainly betray the core of his being, his aim of making one out of many; but when he has achieved it in the proverbial way through the love of two human beings, he is not willing to go further” (Gay 747). This is the betrayal of Eros: that despite its

A process known as sublimation, which is a repressive modification of pleasure/happiness – it is a diversion of Eros into other objects. For instance, Freud said that men are too fearful of the female genitals as-is, so they sublimate their desire into an obsession of the female breasts, buttocks, legs, form, etc. This explains fetishism as well as symbolism in dreams –it lets us satisfy our instincts without repression.

Eurdekian 8 strength and power, it can shift freely and distribute itself onto other objects. It can’t ever stay ‘truly’ monogamous. It is the ever-present life instinct who, much like a child, is enthusiastic and wants everything for himself. And when this child doesn’t get what it wants, it leans towards a destructive impulse, just as how children tend to break objects when they are dissatisfied. The negative force of aggression in Eros begins to reveal itself. The idea of an anti-Eros now comes into play. In Psychoanalysis and the Climate of Tragedy, Stanley Edgar Hyman14 depicts the libido as, “the blind energy of sexual impulses…equivalent to the ancient Greek ‘wild Ate’, the daughter of Zeus and Strife, the wrath or madness that seizes the hero and moves him to senseless violence, destruction, or self-destruction” (172). In mythology, Thanatos15 is the god of death and mortality. Marcuse explains that, "it is the Failure of Eros, lack of fulfillment in life, which enhances the instinctual value of death" (Marcuse 98). The balance between Eros and Thanatos fluctuates in a complex economical system.16 In sadism, the death drive is directed towards others, gratifying our Eros through violence and aggression. In masochism, the anti-Erotic power (death-drive) is directed at the self. Freud explains the masochistic reaction as a relief from the tension due to repressive society. Marcuse elaborates: “The perpetual restrictions on Eros ultimately weaken the life instincts and thus strengthen and release the very forces which they were “called up” – those of destruction” (40). Masochism, because it is directed at the self, is a form of narcissism as well as a (secondary-narcissistic17) perversion because it diverts from the sexual aim (reproduction). In his Three Essays on the Theory of
14 15

Who was a staff writer for The New Yorker back in the 50’s. Freud actually never used this term; his original word is Todestrieb. 16 The psychical economy of the libidinal cathexis (investments, distributions, and diversions of Eros). 17 I will explain this term in the next section.

Eurdekian 9 Sexuality, Freud asserts that, “masochism is nothing more than an extension of sadism turned round upon the subject’s own self, which thus, to begin with, takes the place of the sexual object” (Gay 252). One is active and the other is passive, but both anti-erotic drives exist for the same aim. To visually describe the way Eros works, I’ve designed the following flowchart:

Eurdekian 10 iii. Narcissistic Love The myth of Narcissus is probably one of the most well-known. There are several versions of the myth18 but the minor variations are irrelevant to this essay – what is important in the myth is the central theme of Narcissus’ self-love. In the myth, it is expressed in the form of vanity (he is a somatic narcissist) and in other myths, Narcissism is expressed as hubris (a cerebral narcissist). Narcissus is a somatic narcissist; his focus is on his body and his beauty – whereas Oedipus, as we’ll see, is a cerebral narcissist because he exhibits hubris over his father. Eros is a motivating force; we do not exist without it. 19 Freud mentions how, “it seems probable that the sexual instinct is in the first instance independent of its object” (Gay 246) which shows that Eros exists separately; it is originally an end in itself. As babies, we have something called “primary narcissism” which is blissful self-absorption. Primary narcissism is basically our ego-libido which works to keep us alive. It works in service to the self-preservation instincts (hunger, thirst, fear) and we never lose this need to care for ourselves. Primary narcissism (or ego-libido) is perfectly healthy, normal, and necessary for the preservation of our Ego. However, Freud makes a distinction between two types of narcissism; primary and secondary narcissism. Secondary narcissism is pathological; in its negative it results in schizophrenia,20 and in its positive it results in megalomania. Those who are arrested at that pathological stage, in Freudian theory, have failed to overcome the Oedipus complex. Because secondary narcissism is a perversion of the original narcissism, and involves knowledge of the Oedipus complex, I am forced to

One version says that Narcissus dies from thirst because he can’t stand to ripple the water and ruin his beautiful reflection; another version says he falls into the lake, and another includes an unrequited love story with the nymph Echo. 19 “The narcissistic libidinal cathexis of the ego is the original state of things, realized in earliest childhood, and is merely covered by the later extrusions of libido, but in essentials persists behind them” (Gay 286). 20 Freud used the term paraphrenia.

Eurdekian 11 introduce it in the next segment (I realize that some terms haven’t been clarified yet, but topics in psychoanalysis often overlap). There are three segments that I want to analyze in the mythological love story between Pygmalion and Galatea. The first part is the libidinal investment (and psychological motivations) of Pygmalion, the second part is his erotic deviations (fetishism21 and quasi-homosexuality), and the third part is the element of incest. In the myth, Pygmalion is a sculptor who sees so much to blame in women that, “he came at last to abhor the sex” (Bulfinch 88). Thus, he takes it upon himself to carve a sculpture of a beautiful woman in his own ideal image. He worships his ivory statue, clothes her, and adorns her with jewelry. During a festival for Venus in Cyprus, he stands before her altar and prays to have a woman, “like his ivory virgin” (Bulfinch 88), but Venus senses his real wish (which is to posses her) and grants him the favor. When he returns home, he finds his statue – Galatea – alive. They marry each other and she gives birth to a son, Paphos. Freud’s ideas help us understand the psychology of Pygmalion. The two forms of love that Freud makes a distinction between are ego-libidinal and object-libidinal:


The fetishistic element of the Pygmalion myth will be discussed in the later segment on the deviations of Eros.

Eurdekian 12 ego-drives (hunger, thirst, fear etc.) not libidinal sexual drives (lust) libidinal originally directed (at least partly) at the self, the sexual drive splits into a narcissistic and an outside-directed component: serve (individual) self-preservation: all about the ego ego-libido object-libido

(Gogolin) He also calls object-libidinal love anaclitic and Oedipal love. Ego-libidinal love is basically narcissism; a degree of investment of libido into the self. The love that Pygmalion has for his statue is of the narcissistic type. Freud deems the Oedipal love as a more ‘real’ and mature love than the narcissistic-type22 which he sees as a perversion because its pathological state deviates from the sexual aim23 as well as because narcissistic love is less about the external object-choice. However, narcissism (or egolibidinal love) when externalized onto a love object other than the self, makes us fall in love with those who remind us of ourselves, or who we once were, or who we would like to be (as opposed to the Oedipal object-choice). In his PowerPoint presentation, Gogolin organizes the following chart:

narcissistic type

‘anaclitic’ or ‘attachment’ type

22 23

See his essay on the Observations on Transference Love. To reproduce; propagate the human species.

Eurdekian 13 loved object can be: • self • past self • ideal self • child (“someone who was once part of oneself”) mostly ego-libido loved object can be: • the woman who fed me • the man who protected me and the succession of substitutes who take their place mostly object-libido

In that sense, Oedipal love is also narcissistic (as everything originates from the ego) – only it is externalized.24 The love that Pygmalion has for Galatea is a narcissistictype love; both as an ideal-self and as a past-self25 (this myth will be discussed even further in the next segment because it has perverted elements as well).


The Deviations of Eros: Pedophilia, Bestiality, Homosexuality, and Fetishism Now is a good time to make a diversion to the topic of erotic diversion. Before we

thoroughly analyze Freud’s second form of love (anaclitic object-choice) and its significance in Greek myth26, I think the deviations of Eros are necessary to explain – especially because these five (including secondary narcissism, as we’ve already seen) deviations are present today as well as in mythology and in history. When we talk about the deviations of Eros, I want to make it clear that all perversions are, essentially, the same sexual impulses inside us; it’s nothing more than a re-direction of our unlimited supply of Eros.

Opposites attract because both want something in the other; parallels attract because they want themselves. 25 In my opinion, it also includes love for the “child”. One could say that there’s an element of incest – Pygmalion is a sculptor who creates Galatea (as God who creates man out of clay). If Galatea is his child, than he is participating in an incestuous relation. If we go one step further to explain the birth of Galatea, we can assume that Venus is her real mother. 26 The Oedipus complex.

Eurdekian 14 In the societal view, perversions (in general) are taboo because they don’t serve or prepare us for the ‘procreative function’. The first perversion of Eros that is most prevalent in Greek mythology is homosexuality, or what Freud calls inversion. On page 243 of The Freud Reader, he explains that there are three kinds of inverts: absolute (homosexuals whose sexual objects are strictly of their own sex), amphigenic (bisexuals and psychosexual hermaphrodites27), and contingent (those who are capable of desiring their own sex and deriving sexual satisfaction from them). Freud’s theory on psychical hermaphoditism arose from the knowledge of true hermaphrodites; individuals who shared anatomical features of both sexes. What this told him is that if hermaphroditism exists commonly (and to any degree in society), then it tells us something about the development of the mind in both sexes: “The importance of these abnormalities lies in the unexpected fact that they facilitate our understanding of normal development” (Gay 243). Freud then states that, “it is clear that in Greece, where the most masculine men were numbered among the inverts, what excited a man’s love was not the masculine character of a boy, but his physical resemblance to a woman as well as his feminine mental qualities… the sexual object is not someone of the same sex but someone who combines the characters of both sexes… thus the sexual object is a kind of reflection of the subject’s own bisexual nature”28 (Gay 245). Eros is unlimited, omnipotent, and plentiful. If it originally includes everything, it makes no distinction between the choice of sexual objects – therefore we are all primarily bisexual. He added in 1915 another


This word comes from Hermaphroditos, the son of the Greek god Hermes and goddess Aphrodite, who became androgynous after a union with the nymph Salmacis (Ruth 638). In biology, it refers to a person with both male and female anatomy. 28 Italics mine.

Eurdekian 15 paragraph to this essay (Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality) that includes an exhausting final footnote: All human beings are capable of making a homosexual object-choice and have in fact made one in their unconscious… psychoanalysis considers that a choice of an object independently of its sex – freedom to range equally over male and female objects – as it is found in childhood, in primitive states of society and early periods of history, is the original basis from which, as a result of restriction in one direction or the other, both the normal and the inverted types develop. (Gay 245) Pedophilia also existed in Greek life as well as in mythology. Freud believes that in the case of pedophilic men, their impulse towards satisfaction overrides a more sensible choice for an object – they lean towards the pleasure principle, towards immediate gratification, without thinking about consequence. He says: “It is only exceptionally that children are the exclusive sexual objects in such a case. They usually come to play that part when someone who is cowardly or has become impotent adopts them as a substitute, or when an urgent instinct (one which will not allow of postponement) cannot at the moment get possession of any more appropriate object… it may become exclusive and replace normal sexual satisfaction entirely” (Gay 246). The second explanation he gives explains that they use the children as a substitute for their shortcomings; I believe it could even be seen as narcissistic love, because the pedophile would complete their need to be with someone who reminds them of their pastself (refer to Gogolin’s second chart) or who they would like to be (regressing to their ego ideal) – or perhaps the universal need for control and dominance (only intensified as a more sadistic impulse).

Eurdekian 16 Zoophilia/Bestiality29 is also present in primitive culture and mythology.30 In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud gives an example of St. Francis of Assisi, whose love for animals was an, “[exploitation of] love for the benefit of an inner feeling of happiness” (Gay 744). This reflects his earlier point in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality when he states that, “a similar consideration applies to sexual intercourse with animals, which is by no means rare, especially among country people, and in which sexual attraction seems to override the barriers of species” (Gay 246). What we can conclude from these Erotic deviations is that sublimation is not only a repressive modification, but also a form of protection: “They protect themselves against the loss of the object by directing their love, not to single objects but to all men alike; and they avoid the uncertainties and disappointments of genital love by turning away from its sexual aims and transforming the instinct into an impulse with an inhibited aim” (ibid.). This also explains the motive behind male fetishism (and fear of the female genitals) in my earlier footnote on sublimation (see page 7, footnote 13). Fetishism is perhaps even an even more widespread Erotic deviation, especially because it is more acceptable for sublimation to work in the direction of objects rather than animals or ‘unacceptable’ object-choices31 (children, same-sex, incestuous relations, etc.). Freud goes on to say that, “a certain degree of fetishism is thus habitually present in normal love, especially in those stages of it in which the normal sexual aim seems
29 30

Sexual intercourse with animals. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that Zeus’ transformations into a swan (for Leda) and bull (for Europa) and eagle (for Ganymede) were expressions of animal-love, especially because Zeus seduced these women. And, of course, Pasiphae’s union with the Minotaur is a perfect example! 31 In my view this is probably because objects are inanimate, unresponsive, and secretive. It is possible to love an object (“I love my shoes”) without being discriminated in public–most people are unaware if a fetish is actually present anyway, as it can be difficult to take seriously, especially in such a consumerist society. Fetishes for boots, underwear, pantyhose, and neckties are accepted in our culture and are rarely thought of as undergoing the same process of sublimation as the other, more taboo perversions that tend to horrify us greatly.

Eurdekian 17 unattainable or its fulfillment prevented…the replacement of the object by a fetish is determined by a symbolic connection of thought” (Gay 250). He goes on to say that, “the foot, for instance, is an age-old sexual symbol which occurs even in mythology; no doubt the part played by fur as a fetish owes its origin to an association with the hair of the mons Veneris”32 (ibid.). Pygmalion’s love for Galatea (pre-birth) was a fetish because he was in love with a statue – his Eros invested itself in an image of his ideal ego as well as into an inanimate object. What I found extremely interesting about the myth of Pygmalion is the aversion to women he felt before Galatea. What did this mean? Freud must have had an answer – and he did. In his short paper entitled Verdrängung [Repression], Freud declares that, “indeed, as we found in tracing the origin of the fetish, it is possible for the original instinctual representative to be split in two, one part undergoing repression, while the remainder, precisely on account of this intimate connection, undergoes idealization” (Gay 571). Therefore, in Freudian analysis, Pygmalion was a repressed and bisexual artist whose one instinct developed into an ability to completely idealize and worship a woman (the fetish), and whose other underdeveloped instinct caused a fear and aversion to women. Fetishism tells us so much about the affect that repression has on Eros. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud is writing about beauty when he makes the brilliant remark on how, “the love of beauty seems a perfect example of an impulse inhibited in its aim. ‘Beauty’ and ‘attraction’ are originally attributes of the sexual object. It is worth remarking that the genitals themselves, the sight of which is always exciting, are nevertheless hardly ever judged to be beautiful; the quality of beauty seems, instead, to attach to certain secondary sexual characters” (733). In a fetish, clothing (for example)

Pubic hair; lit. “the mound of Venus” in Latin.

Eurdekian 18 is substituted for the sexual object which bears some relation to the person it replaces (or, if the person is narcissistic, is a part of one’s own body – such as feet or hair – which are obviously not in compliance with the sexual aim; much like children’s erotogenic zones33). Secondary narcissism, which we’ve already seen, isn’t the same as primary narcissism. In normal development, the baby realizes that he is dependent on his parents and isn’t the center of the universe. Secondary narcissism is when the baby fails to give up his primary narcissism, and this later manifests into either schizophrenia or (adult) megalomania.34 However, both feelings of fear (from castration) and loss of love threaten the baby if he doesn’t withdraw some of his ego-libido; which is why in most normal cases, he is able to mature (the Oedipus complex is described in the next segment, which will shed light on the fear of castration in infants). Overall, Freud is sensitive to the usage of the term perversion for any divergence of Eros: Everyday experience has shown that most of these extensions, or at any rate the less severe of them, are constituents which are rarely absent from the sexual life of healthy people… no healthy person, it appears, can fail to make some addition that might be called perverse to the normal sexual aim; and the universality of this finding is in itself enough to show how inappropriate it is to use the word perversion as a term of reproach.” (Gay 253) He illuminates this final theory on Erotic deviation with a poetic conclusion that beautifully sums up the true Power of Eros: “The omnipotence of love is perhaps never

Basically, when we’re infants we have fixations on certain parts of our body (mouth, anus, genitals) which directly coincide with each stage of our psychosexual development. This is relevant because again, it shows how much megalomania and primary narcissism we have invested in ourselves as infants (it is “all about our Ego” at first). 34 Our megalomania isn’t exactly lost (our ego-libido doesn’t completely turn into object-libido), but it is externally invested into the image of an ideal-ego, which retains perfection and motivates us to strive for that ideal – either for ourselves or to possess through others.

Eurdekian 19 more strongly proved than in such of its aberrations as these” (Gay 254).


Anaclitic Love: The Oedipus Complex In mythology, Oedipus (the son of Queen Jocasta and King Laius) unknowingly

fulfilled his prophecy of marrying his mother and killing his father. To Freud, the Oedipus complex was the ‘nucleus of all neuroses’ and the primary template of all art, mythology, and religion. The complex tells us that we all initially desire the parent of the opposite sex, and wish to eliminate (the threat of) the same-sex parent. Although the Oedipal conflict is generally overcome, it is later re-discovered in our choice of adult sexual-object (that is, if our love isn’t of the narcissistic type; see the chart on page 13). Freud describes the logic behind the (male-version of the) complex: “His mother gave him a life – his own life – and in exchange he gives her another life, that of a child which has the greatest resemblance to himself. The son shows his gratitude by wishing to have by his mother a son who is like himself; in other words, in the rescue-phantasy he is completely identifying himself with his father. All his instincts, those of tenderness, gratitude, lustfulness, defiance and independence, find satisfaction in the single wish to be his own father” (Gay 393). As I mentioned earlier, Oedipus also exhibits a degree of narcissism: “In terms of Greek tragedy, the Oedipus complex is another phrasing of hybris35… the child’s swollen pride that he is a fitter mate for his mother” (Hyman 171). And mythology tells of Myrrha, who has an incestuous love towards her father:

The God of love denyes His weapons to have hurted thee, O Myrrha, and he tryes

Hubris; arrogance.

Eurdekian 20 Himselfe ungiltie by thy fault. One of the Furies three With poysonde Snakes and hellish brands hath rather blasted thee. To hate ones father is a cryme as heynous as may bee, But yit more wicked is this love of thine than any hate. (Ovid, Metamorphoses , 10.244) The Oedipal conflict in girls mirrors the same one in boys. However, both males and females resolve the complex differently. The boy fears castration by the overbearing father, while the female waits for her father’s gift36 which never comes (hopefully!). “The essential difference thus comes about that the girl accepts castration as an accomplished fact, whereas the boy fears the possibility of its occurrence” (Gay 665). Her Oedipus complex dissolves on the basis of precondition (she is already castrated) while his dissolves through a repression of his desire and submission to the father for fear of castration (on the basis of punishment). The complex is resolved with an identification of the same-sex parent. A failure to resolve this conflict (and ‘keep the penis’) results in narcissism37, and the child is fixated in the phallic stage of his or her development. However, Freud implies that the process is different for women, and that they always remain partially fixated at the phallic stage in his slightly-humorous theory on female vanity. He says that women are in-love with themselves and their beauty, which is why they have so much more invested ego-libido (narcissism) and are able to give less Eros – this is supposed to explain why men fall in love more strongly than women. He explains that this is also the

His penis. “She slips – along the line of symbolic equation, one might say – from the penis to a baby. Her Oedipus complex culminates in a desire, which is long retained, to receive a baby from her father as a gift – to bear him a child” (Gay 665). 37 “The process we have described is more than a repression. It is equivalent, if it is ideally carried out, to a destruction and an abolition of the complex… if the Ego has in fact not achieved much more than a repression of the complex, the latter persists in an unconscious state in the Id and will later manifest its pathogenic effect” (Gay 664).

Eurdekian 21 reason why once women finally do get their baby, they stop loving their husband and focus more on the child. Nietzsche hinted at the same idea in his novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra when he wrote that, "everything in woman is a riddle, and everything in woman hath one solution - it is called pregnancy. Man is for woman a means: the purpose is always the child"(qtd. in Levi, “Little Red Riding Hood” par. 2). The baby is the penis that she finally has.


Totem and Taboo: Fear, Ambivalence, and “The Uncanny” In Freud’s essay Totem and Taboo he explains the theory of the primal horde,38

which is the basic clan-organization of ancient civilizations. It is the first example of the Oedipus complex at work because, “according to Freud, this event is not unique but occurs throughout the history of mankind and of every individual... Freud’s individual psychology is in its very essence social psychology” (Marcuse 14-15). The story of the primal horde goes like this: in the beginning, the father is the leader of the clan, with supreme control over the sons and women. Like the totemic religions of primitive cultures, he (the totem animal and father) imposes several ‘nonverbal contracts’ which give social order to the clan. The horror of incest39 is explained through the prohibitions in the totemic clan: If the totem animal is the father, then the two principal ordinances of totemism, the two taboo prohibitions which constitute its core – not to kill the totem40 and not to have sexual relations with a woman of the same totem – coincide in their content with the two crimes of Oedipus, who killed his father and married his mother, as well as with the two primal
38 39

A term originally used by Charles Darwin. The reason why it is so taboo in society, and why it (incest) always has been. 40 i.e. anger the gods, as well as fear their power (gods in myth, like Zeus, represent the domineering fathers of the totem clan, and in the family set-up).

Eurdekian 22 wishes of children. (Gay 495) In the primal horde, we also see the first example of a repressed Eros in the role of the brothers: “The father monopolized for himself the woman (the supreme pleasure) and subjugated the other members of the horde to his power… the burden of whatever work had to be done in the primal horde would have been placed on the sons who [were excluded] from the pleasure reserved for the father” (Marcuse 55). In the clan, “the despot was the father, the hatred with which his subjects regarded him must from the beginning have been accompanied by a biological affection – ambivalent emotions which were expressed in the wish to replace and to imitate the father, to identify oneself with him, with his pleasure as well as with his power” (Marcuse 56). This ambivalence41 is the same one we encountered in the Oedipus complex; the patriarch is, “father and tyrant in one, unites sex and order, pleasure and reality; he evokes love and hatred” (Marcuse 58). The fear and awe of the father is displaced onto the totem animal.42 On a larger scale, the ‘fear of father’ becomes a fear of authority or anything that imposes social order – in religion and mythology, the father is God.43 “The severe father… enforces the first ‘communal’ (social) relations: his prohibitions create identification among the sons, aim-inhibited love (affection), exogamy, sublimation. On the basis of renunciation, Eros begins its cultural work of combining life into ever larger units” (Marcuse 72). Under this order, the brothers in the primal horde commit the ‘supreme crime’ – they kill the father

41 42

A term coined by Freud’s contemporary, Josef Bleuler. Unless there is any confusion, the totemic religion is not the primal horde. The theory of the primal horde is the story of the Oedipus complex and killing of the father, which gives birth to religion and civilized society (after the brother’s guilt and repent). The totemic religion is the first religion of primitive man, whose taboos on incest are reminiscent of the two crimes/drives of Oedipus. 43 “There can be no doubt that in the Christian myth the original sin was one against God the Father” (qtd. in Gay 508).

Eurdekian 23 and consume his body44 – which allows them to identify with the father (gaining his strength and power) as well as indulge in incest within the clan. The women who were inaccessible before (as they belonged to the father) are now shared with the brothers. This is where the horror of incest45 comes from; from fear of repeating the supreme crime (patricide) that Oedipus unknowingly committed, from the fear of the ‘previously experienced’ consequence of breaking the sacred totemic laws. In his website’s sub-topic entitled Girls’ Desire for Incest in Myth and in the Bible, Iakov Levi talks about the relevance between mythology and the drive towards incest in the primal horde. He says that, “males' instinctual drive for incest, and its close association with aggressiveness toward fathers, is the main thread in mythology46 and religion, and it is pivotal to the understanding of history.” We now know how Totem and Taboo relates to mythology (it is the Oedipus complex) but how does it relate to religion? A surprising feature about the totemic religion is the way in which the totemanimal is treated; we worship the totem, but we also sacrifice it. If it is so sacred, why do we offer it as a sacrifice?47 We can’t still say that this sacrifice is still due to ambivalent feelings toward the father/animal – or can we? Freud shifts to the law of talion48 as the explanation for this irony – it is the deep-rooted logic we have that one killing can be undone with a sacrifice. At first the brothers disclaim responsibility for the killing, but then they begin to


A parallel is seen in the pre-Olympian myths: the Titan’s revolt against their father, Dionysus-Zagreus, and the consumption of his body – see page 508 of The Freud Reader. 45 “The earliest sexual excitations of youthful human beings are invariably of an incestuous character and that such impulses when repressed play a part that can scarcely be over-estimated as motive forces of neuroses in later life” (qtd. in Gay 489). 46 A few examples of incest in Greek mythology would be Cronus/Rhea, Zeus/Hera, and the Titans. 47 Primitive religions used to even consume the body of the totem animal – we suppose as a way to ‘gain its power’ and identify ourselves as a clan. 48 “An eye for an eye”.

Eurdekian 24 feel guilt and remorse over the father’s death (social order has become chaos, as the brothers are unwilling to share equal power). They mourn over the father until they resurrect him.49 He becomes a father-god, and they give him the honor of their worship (which fits-in perfectly with their feelings of awe and love, which was jealousy in its negative form) and civilization will soon develop.50 Religion falls in with our instinctual desires, which is why it is able to exist for so long. But it is a two-fold situation: “The father survives as the god in whose adoration the sinners repent so that they can continue to sin” (Marcuse 59). The mourning isn’t an expression of sympathy, but it is ‘obligatory’ and motivated by the fear that the father-god will be angry – that he is still watching, domineering from the heavens. The mourning disclaims responsibility for the murder. They mourn so that they can sin again. Perhaps this is what the Bible is alluding to in this following statement: “If the worshippers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin. But in these sacrifices there is a reminder year after year” (Hebrews 10:2).51 The father-image,52 however, reveals itself far beyond religion. “In this role, the primal father foreshadows the subsequent domineering father-images under which civilization progressed” (Marcuse 56). The father was the totem-animal, and now the fear of the father is substituted onto the fear of a specific animal – gods, totems, minotaurs,

The resurrection of Christ, as well as the tradition of Communion in Christianity (eating the bread and wine is symbolic of the “old consumption” of the father’s body – of the killing). Yet every Easter, we continue to resurrect Christ – how infantile religion is! 50 “The collective killing and devouring of the father, and the establishment of the brother clan, which in turn defies the assassinated father and introduces those taboos and restraints which, according to Freud, generate social morality… progress beyond the primal horde – i.e. civilization—presupposes guilt feeling: it introjects into the individuals, and thus sustains, the principle prohibitions, constraints, and delays in gratification on which civilization depends” (Marcuse 57). 51 The leather-Bible I am citing has an unknown date and is unfortunately missing information…. 52 Paternal imago. A great quote in the Bible seems to sum-up the power of the father within the horde and within the entire scope of history and psychology: “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on Earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14+15).

Eurdekian 25 monsters and animals53 are all resurrections of the father. Freud uses the phrase, “the wrath of the father in the form of an animal” (Gay 507) and gives examples which relate to mythology.54 The father is also present in fairtytales, which are more or less a form of ‘folk’ mythology. In Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human, he reveals: The eternal child. We think that play and fairy tales belong to childhood: how shortsighted that is! As though we would want at any time of life to live without play and fairy tales! We give these things other names, to be sure, and feel differently about them, but precisely this is the evidence that they are the same things - for the child too regards play as his work and fairy tales as his truth. (qtd. in Levi, “Psychoanalysis and Fairytales”)

Wikipedia’s entry on Freud’s Das Unheimliche55 summarizes how the monsters (and as we now know, all father-representations) in tales give us a feeling of discomfort and familiarity because they bring upon repressed material of our past. Take a look and see if this now makes sense: Freud… proposes that social taboo often yields an aura not only of pious reverence but even moreso of horror and even disgust, as the taboo state of an item gives rise to the commonplace assumption that that which is hidden from public eye (cf. the eye or sight metaphor) must be a dangerous threat and even an abomination - especially if the concealed item is obviously or presumingly sexual in nature. Basically, the Uncanny is what unconsciously reminds us of our own Id, our forbidden and thus repressed impulses perceived as a threatening force by our super-ego ridden with oedipal guilt as it fears

Freud once wrote a case-analysis on a five year-old boy (“Little Hans”) who had a horse-phobia, and who displaced his fear of his father onto the horse (animal), afraid of its bite. Dr. Ferenczi’s case analysis of Little Arpad was possibly the most striking – the child had a fowl-phobia and would slaughter birds and then sing and dance around their corpses, much like primitive peoples in the totemic religion. 54 How Adonis was killed by the wild boar, and Attis perished by castration. 55 “The Uncanny” in English.

Eurdekian 26 symbolic castration by punishment for deviating from societal norms. Thus, the items and individuals that we project our own repressed impulses upon become a most uncanny threat to us, uncanny monsters and freaks akin to fairy-tale folk-devils, and subsequently often become scapegoats we blame for all sorts of perceived miseries, calamities, and maladies.


Conclusion: What Symbolism Means Dreams, works of art, and tales are the expression of unconscious needs. They have no moral intentions, nor educational purposes. Symbolism is not finalist. It is the product of drives and conflicts emerging in a condensed and concealed way, with the purpose of expressing a psychic content, and of discharging the energies trapped in the repression, that are pressing for recognition and for relief... symbols, at difference with metaphors and allegories, are the containers of very concrete needs, namely instinctual drives. Through symbols, dreams, tales, and works of arts express the need, and in this way they relieve the sufferance by discharging the energies trapped in the repression. (Levi, “The Three Little Pigs,” par. 4) The Power of Eros is the core of what drives us. Mythology is not a story of

morals – it is an expression of universal desires and truths about the human species. It communicates the sad truth about human beings – that we are still controlled by these primitive instincts and impulses. The tales we now write are a tool of denial; they have answers to every question, and lessons for every page. Rationality, repression, and taboo have concealed what we once knew and have made us ignorant. Our myths are the only memory we have left – the rest is uncovering their riddles.

Eurdekian 27

Works Cited “Aristophanes's Speech from Plato's Symposium.” Tran. Benjamin Jowett, 4th Edition, Oxford UP, 1953. <> Bulfinch, Thomas. Myths of Greece and Rome. Comp. Bryan Holme. New York: Penguin, 1979. Freud, Sigmund. The Freud Reader. Ed. Peter Gay. New York: Norton & Company, 1989. Gogolin, Karsten. Powerpoint Presentation On Narcissism. 28 April 2008. Hyman, Stanley Edgar. “Psychoanalysis and the Climate of Tragedy.” Freud and the 20th

Eurdekian 28 Century. Ed. Benjamin Nelson. New York: Meridian Books, 1957. Levi, Iakov. “Psychohistory: A Psychoanalytic Approach to History.” 2001-2008. <> Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry Into Freud. New York: Beacon Press, 1955. “Myth." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 10 Dec. 2008 <>. “Ovid’s Metamorphoses – Book 10.” Cred: Arthur Golding. 2002. <> “Perspectives: Mythology.” 2002 < perspectives_mythology.htm>. Ruth, Gilbert. “Hermaphroditism.” Encyclopedia of Erotic Literature: Vol. 1. Eds. Gaétan Brulotte and John Phillips. New York: Routledge, 2006.

“Uncanny.” 25 December 2008. Mmm.<>

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