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Freud’s Interest in the Origins of Humanity as Reflected in his Theory of Psychoanalysis

The Letter, Issue 66/67, Autumn 2017/Spring 2018, Pages 75 - 82



Nellie Curtin

From his earliest writings Freud frequently drew parallels between origin stories and psychoanalysis. In his later writings he goes further and makes direct links between the prehistoric and the unconscious: ‘the man of prehistoric times survives unchanged in our unconscious’[2] In relation to a similar theme of myth, Lacan states that to establish these connections seems ‘to me indispensable if we are to situate our domain well, or even simply find out where we are.’ [3] This paper attempts to look at these parallels and connections with a view to assessing their relevance and application to psychoanalytic theory and practise.

Key words: Mythic Formations; ancestral prehistory; totem; archaic heritage; residual phenomena.

With the approach of the Winter Solstice and its association with Brú na Boinne, Newgrange, we are reminded of the ceremonies and mythologies relating to these ancient peoples of 5000 years ago. There is a curiosity about their origins. There is also a certain mythology surrounding our individual origins: we don’t remember our own birth – birth itself being a primeval experience. Combining myth and research seems to be one way of finding pointers that might solve the puzzle concerning the origins of humanity and civilization. Freud was interested in these questions. He tells us that in his youth he felt an overpowering need to understand something of the riddles of the world and perhaps even to contribute something of their solution as an adult. Understanding the riddles of medicine wasn’t quite enough for him. So he moved from the verifiable scientific world of neurology and entered into the unknown territory of psychoanalysis. Part of this excursion into a new field included his interest in and use of anthropology and archaeology.

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