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Eisenbud, J. (1956). Time and the Oedipus. Psychoanal Q., 25:363-384.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:363-384

Time and the Oedipus

Jule Eisenbud, M.D.

The possibility of any sort of foreknowledge of the future (or what would virtually amount to this) not based upon normal inference within a probabilistic framework is now flatly discounted by science. According to earlier conceptions of causality such a possibility, while never considered actually realizable within the accepted limits of human powers, was nevertheless ideally conceivable. It required the omniscience of what was held in principle to be a precisely knowable state of affairs. This was the exclusive property of a deity whose purposes one sought to anticipate by divination.

Psychoanalysis has acquiesced in the currently accepted view and has tried to show that the idea of prophecy of the unknowable future is traceable to irrational sources in the unconscious.

In view of this it might seem rather pointless to reopen the subject in order to gain another hearing for an idea that is considered scientifically absurd and at the same time has been discredited as a relic of infantile magical thinking. I am nevertheless encouraged by the response of readers of This QUARTERLY to a previous communication (3); few readers were explicitly outraged while many more, although hardly reversing their attitudes on the central issue because of what I had to say, showed some interest in further discussion of the problems involved.

In my previous paper I reviewed some of the more significant experimental data that parapsychology has adduced in support of the hypothesis of 'precognition' and I tried to show with some of my own clinical material that psychoanalysis could contribute positively as well as negatively toward the question of what I termed 'behavioral correspondences to normally unpredictable future events'. In the present paper I shall take a somewhat different tack, putting emphasis more on what the hypothesis of precognition can do for psychoanalysis rather than the reverse.

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