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McWatters, R.C. (1923). A Modern Prometheus. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 4:326-327.

(1923). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 4:326-327

A Modern Prometheus

R. C. McWatters

Of the many aspects of political agitation in India none seems more unreasonable than the cult of the spinning-wheel, or charka. It produces a thread which is much inferior to the machine-made article, and that at such a cost in labour that a man can earn but a farthing an hour by means of it. Yet the most extravagant hopes have been built upon the revival of hand-spinning; it is to bring to India economic and political independence, freedom from famine, self-government and social regeneration. Gandhi himself writes from jail, 'I am indifferent to whatever the country may do so long as the cause of the khadi (homespun) and the charka is well looked after. It must be clearly understood that there is no salvation for us until the khaddar programme is completely worked.' In 'Young India' he writes: 'In hand-spinning is hidden the protection of womens' virtue, the insurance against famine and the cheapening of prices. In it is hidden the secret of swaraj (self-government).'

In the face of such an irrational over-estimation, not only on the part of the leader of the movement, but also among thousands, perhaps millions of his followers, one is impelled to look for unconscious mechanisms as the explanation. The first clue is given by the name 'charka', which is related to others which signify circle or wheel and in the form of 'chark' is familiar to psycho-analysts and students of folk-lore as the name of the primitive apparatus by means of which the early Aryans obtained fire long before the days of flint and steel. As is well known, fire was originally produced by means of a drill of hard wood rotated rapidly in a depression in a disc of softer wood and the operation early possessed a symbolic significance of great interest. Fire is equivalent to the fire of love and life, and the mystery of creative and procreative power. Through analogy with lightning it was brought into relation with the elemental forces of nature; by their ability to create fire men became as the Gods who wield the lightning and as the sun which warms the earth and makes it fruitful. On deeper analysis we find that the pramantha or drill symbolizes the male organ and the chark the female; the whole process portrays the sexual act.

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