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Feldman, S.S. (1969). Patterns in Obedience and Disobedience. Am. Imago, 26(1):21-36.

(1969). American Imago, 26(1):21-36

Patterns in Obedience and Disobedience

Sandor S. Feldman, M.D.

In a paper on an ancient religious ritual, written a quarter of a century ago, (6) I indicated my acceptance of the possibility that certain important events in the history of the human species can appear in succeeding generations in the form of “memory traces.” I then suggested that, although there is much evidence to uphold the phylogenetic theory (dream symbolism, the history of speech, archaism in psychoses, and others to be mentioned in this paper), it is not necessary, in this regard, to refer to former or different cultures.

Henry Bunker (3), for example, has discussed a rite, “Bouphonia” or “Ox-murder,” which took place in Athens as late as during the fifth century B. C. In that rite, an ox was sacrificed annually on the Acropolis, in a way that was similar to the killing that Freud (10) posited as taking place in the primal horde. Bullfights and other kinds of fighting in our present day have also been interpreted by several writers as symbolizing the killing of the father by his sons. According to Reik (16), the blowing of the Shofar (ram's horn) on a Jewish High Holiday signifies the bellowing of the slain and dying father.

As far as instinctual needs are concerned, there is no significant difference between the human being of the primeval past and of present times. Moreover, there is no difference in the tools the ego employs when it is dealing with instinctual drives. We cannot know for certain whether in our own time a human group would indeed invent the same rituals as primeval man; they might or might not prove to be identical. If the same ritual is not invented, however, others may be devised for the same reason—and to serve the same purpose. Our everyday clinical practice reveals how inventive man can be in this respect. In a delightful paper, Tarachow (20) has shown that, at the annual convention-banquets of many professional and social societies, a repetition appears of the totem feast.


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