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Schneider, S. Berke, J.H. (2009). On: Can you push a camel through the eye of a needle?. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(4):905-906.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(4):905-906

Letters to the Editors

On: Can you push a camel through the eye of a needle?

Stanley Schneider and Joseph H. Berke

Dear Editors,

Fred Busch (2009) chooses an interesting metaphor for the beginning part of the title of his recent paper: ‘Can you push a camel through the eye of a needle?’ We feel that the latter part of the title: Reflections on how the unconscious speaks to us and its clinical implications, tells us a bit about why this particular metaphor was chosen.

The metaphor is found in writings of three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, with a slight variation.

In Judaism, the metaphor is found in the Talmud Tractate Brachot 55b:

A person does not [spontaneously] dream a palm tree of gold nor an elephant entering the eye of a needle.

This follows on the heels of the Talmudic statement:

A person only dreams [at night] what is on his mind [during the day]

In Christianity, the metaphor is found in the New Testament (Matthew 19: 24; Mark 10: 25; Luke 18: 25):

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

In Islam, the Koran (Al Araf, chapter 7), we find:

The gates of heaven shall not be opened unto them (the souls), neither shall they enter into paradise, until a camel pass through the eye of a needle.

The hyperbole in all the above metaphors accentuates the impossibility of dreaming without day residue or unconscious thoughts (Talmud), or of entering the kingdom of heaven (New Testament), or of entering paradise (Koran), if not deserving.

In our paper on Antithetical meanings of ‘the breast’ (1994), we discussed Freud's understanding that in the early development of language, words emerge by denoting differences between contrary states.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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