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de Mendelssohn, F. (2001). Building a bridge to heaven: Notes on the construction, destruction and reconstruction of the Tower of Babel. Free Associations, 8(3):486-506.

(2001). Free Associations, 8(3):486-506

Building a bridge to heaven: Notes on the construction, destruction and reconstruction of the Tower of Babel

Felix de Mendelssohn


Aspects of the myth of the Tower of Babel can give structure to certain phenomena we may experience and observe in groups, in particular in large groups and in organisational life. The myth itself and its divers psychoanalytic interpretations are considered, leading to a special examination of the significance of the developmental phase of adolescence for this dynamic. Some problems of group analytic technique which may arise when elements of Babel appear in analytic work are discussed. Finally, the relevance of the Babel myth for macro-social processes is viewed in connection with modern progress in science and technology.

The Myth and its Interpretations

Let me begin by relating a personal experience which brought about the idea for this paper, an experience which had induced in me strong feelings of shame and isolation. I had attended a scientific meeting of my psychoanalytic society where a colleague had given a paper. Her theme was the significance of the Primal Scene of parental sexual intercourse and its effects on the inhibition of curiosity in the small child.

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