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Beit-Hallahmi, B. (2007). Triggering Metamorphosis: Freud and Siddhartha. Ann. Psychoanal., 35:151-163.

(2007). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 35:151-163

IV Perspectives from Scholars

Triggering Metamorphosis: Freud and Siddhartha

Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Ph.D.

For Peter Homans.

The challenge of explaining dramatic transformations in individual lives turns more complex when the crisis leading to change seems self-induced, with no external pressures, and the metamorphosis seems self-initiated. These are cases in which the supposed discovery of a great truth leads to renunciation, both metaphorical and concrete, with the convert leaving everything behind, including home and family. We are faced with the mystery of the moment when the need for reassessment is so compelling that a person insists on imposing a new meaning on the past or inventing a whole new meaning system. Most of these cases are so puzzling and fascinating that they lead us to hypothesize and speculate in the absence of positive evidence. Behind our fascination may hide our own dreams of rebirth and redemption.

Innocence and Disillusionment

Fictions about Adam and Eve, Moses, Buddha, and Jesus operate by condensing and telescoping panhuman concerns tied to childhood. Religious mythologies offer us fairy tales presented with a validating metarepresentation, but they must be fairy tales to remain accessible to both children and adults. After all, most believers have learned all they know about their religion as children.

The idea of childhood as a time of innocence, ending with the painful discovery of sex and death, is best known through the Genesis myth of the Garden of Eden. In this story, two innocent children are banished from the garden when they taste the knowledge of good and evil. Discovering the facts of life is punished as a sin and leads humankind to eternal damnation.

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