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Slochower, H. (1984). Rank's Mythic Hero and the Creative Will. Am. Imago, 41(4):385-387.

(1984). American Imago, 41(4):385-387

Rank's Mythic Hero and the Creative Will

Harry Slochower

My interest in Otto Rank reaches back about a quarter of a century when I began work on Mythopoesis. I was especially drawn to Rank's Myth of the Birth of the Hero and the stages assigned to his Journey. Rank's schema ends in a triumphant third stage in the hero's Journey.

In my comment, I then observed that such a happy ending applies to fairy tales, primitive myths, and to Oriental mythologies, but not to mythopoesis, that is, to myths re-created through the symbolism of poetic language. In Mythopoesis—closer to “Reality,”—the Third Act is followed by an “Epilogue” in which the hero's dissidence and conflict with “the state” re-emerges and, with it, his function of galvanizing and re-creating the tradition which had again become stale and stifling. Thus, Mythopoesis bars a paradisiac finale and reconciliation has a tragic aura.

What I was not aware of then was that Rank's schema was reversed in his subsequent development which centered in the anti-deterministic conception of the Ego as the instrument of what he termed “The Creative Will.” In this radical shift, Rank also repudiated what he regarded as Freud's “causalistic” thinking. In the formulation by Esther Menaker, Rank's

belief in the freedom of the human spirit to make choices through the exercise of will differs radically from Freud's view of man as the product and prisoner of his constitution and of his past experience….

For Freud, the drives were primary, whereas for Rank, creativity was primary (Menaker, Rank's, p. 35). Creativity became the dominant concept in Rank's psychology, with art as its most sublime manifestation.

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